Apple Starts Selling Beatles Songs on iTunes

Apple Inc. began offering Beatles songs through its iTunes for the first time, ending an almost decade-long stalemate with the best-selling group.

Apple Inc. began offering Beatles songs through iTunes for the first time, ending an almost decade-long stalemate with the best-selling group. Photo: Apple

After years of wrangling and negotiations, Apple Inc. finally secured the rights to the music of the Beatles and made it available through its iTunes store on Tuesday. “In 1964, the band that changed everything came to America,” Apple said on its main page. “Now they’re on iTunes.”

The band’s 13 studio albums, along with boxed sets and single tracks are available, Apple Inc. said today in a statement. iTunes, the largest destination for buying music in the U.S., is selling single tracks for $1.29 and a set of the band’s entire collection for $149.

NY Times reports that Apple, EMI, the band’s record label, and Apple Corps, the band’s company, said the Beatles’ 13 remastered studio albums, the two-volume “Past Masters” compilation and the classic “Red” and “Blue” collections were on sale on iTunes as complete albums or individual songs.

Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon of The Beatles in 1964. Now they're on iTunes. Photo: Apple

Apple Inc. debuted its iTunes seven yers ago, and it quickly became the world’s No. 1 seller of digital music. But until now, The Beatles have been one of the last remaining holdouts, choosing instead to sell their music exclusively on CDs, cassette tapes and records.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to be a Beatles fan, and has been in negotiations for years with EMI Group, the Beatles’ record label, and Apple Corps, the Beatles’ business group. But like all other Beatles fans, Mr. Jobs had to download tracks from a CD if he wanted to listen to the British band’s music on his iPod.

CD sales have plummeted since Napster and then iTunes made their way onto the scene. Sales of music from physical stores was outpaced by iTunes sales in 2005. But the Beatles have been resilient, remaining one of the most popular purchases throughout the digital music era.

Despite their lack of presence on iTunes and other digital music stores, The Beatles’ compilation album “1” was the best-selling album of last decade, according to Nielsen Soundscan. And last year, Nielsen said the Beatles were No. 3 in album sales.

iTunes customers can now download all 13 of the Beatles remastered studio albums, and the "Red," "Blue" and two-volume "Past Masters" compilations albums. The albums cost either $12.99 or $19.99, and individual songs cost $1.29 each - the highest end of Apple's per-song price range. Photo: Apple

The Beatles haven’t been the only holdout. AC/DC, Kid Rock and Bob Seger are among the small handful of other notable major artists that don’t sell their music on iTunes.

The decision to sell their music on iTunes came after a couple of other un-Beatles-like business decisions in recent years. Late last year, the Beatles allowed technicians to access their original master recordings to remaster all of their music. They also appeared in a video game by Harmonix called Beatles Rock Band.

Apple made the announcement about the deal at 10 a.m. ET on its website,, but users who logged into iTunes could already download Beatles tracks for sale earlier Tuesday morning.

Ownership of the Beatle’s music catalog rests with various parties, including surviving members of the band Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison. The band’s record label EMI Group Ltd., Sony Corp. and the estate of Michael Jackson also control some rights.

“The Beatles music is one of the most complex sets of copyrights and ownership situations in the entire history of the music industry,” said Aram Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University, who follows the music business.

EMI and its owner, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., will see a much-needed boost as it faces debt payments to Citigroup Inc., which helped pay for the 2007 acquisition, Sinnreich said. The Jackson estate, also grappling with debt amassed by the late pop singer, also will benefit, he said.

Apple will sell digital versions of the Beatle’s music exclusively into 2011, said Dylan Jones, a spokesman for EMI, without being more specific.
[via CNN Money and Bloomberg]

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