Beatles Ready Catalog For Online Distribution
After years of steadfastly refusing to license their music to iTunes and other online music stores, the Beatles have recently digitally remastered their entire catalog according to testimony given by Neil Aspinall, a former Beatles road manager and managing director of Apple Corps in the company’s trademark lawsuit against Apple Computer.
“I think it would be wrong to offer downloads of the old masters when I am making new masters,” Aspinall said in a written statement submitted to the High Court in London earlier this month. “It would be better to wait and try to do them both simultaneously so that you then get the publicity of the new masters and the downloading, rather than just doing it ad hoc.”
A spokeswoman for Apple Corps confirmed Aspinall’s statement, and said that the company is preparing to make the Beatles catalog available through online music services. “There’s no firm date on any of this at the moment. There are a lot of projects that Apple are working on at the moment,” she said on Thursday. The Beatles have been high-profile holdouts from the booming online music sector, which saw sales triple to $1.1 billion in 2005.
Apple Corps, owned by Beatles Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison, have accused Apple Computer of violating a 1991 agreement by using the Apple name and logo to sell music downloads through its market-leading iTunes Music Store. The trial ended on April 6, with a decision from the judge due in the next few weeks. Many thought that the lawsuit was a ploy for a special licensing deal from Apple, but “best of nation” clauses in many of the contracts with the majors have made such an arrangement undesirable for Apple Computer.
The Future: Legal downloads of the Beatles entire catalog is a long time coming. The “digitally remastered” angle is more marketing than anything since most of their tracks are available on the current crop of Peer-To-Peer (P2P) networks. However, legalized downloads should bring in significant revenue that Apple Corps have missed out on over the last few years.