Apple brings Beatles to iTunes

The Fab Four's 13 studio albums and several compilations are now available for downloading.

By Charley Blaine Nov 15, 2010 7:50PM
Credit: (© AP file)
Caption: The BeatlesIt's getting better all the time, the Beatles tune from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" says.  It sure is for Apple (AAPL).

The company announced Tuesday that its iTunes Store now carries music by the Beatles.
The move filled in a glaring gap in the collection of the world's largest music retailer.

Apple shares were off 1% to $303 in morning trading. The shares are up nearly 46% this year and hit an all-time high of $331.30 on Nov. 9.

The Beatles deal resulted from talks that were taking place as recently as last week among executives of Apple, representatives of the Beatles and their record label, EMI Group, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

The agreement represents a watershed in a fraught, decades-long relationship between two of the biggest icons in their respective fields.

The two sides have traded lawsuits since 1978, when the Beatles alleged that the computer maker, then known as Apple Computer, infringed on the band's trademark.

That's because the Beatles in 1968 created a wholly owned entity called Apple Corps Ltd., which acted as an arts-promotion company and owned Apple Records. Though EMI retained ownership of the Beatles recordings, the Apple logo was printed on their albums.

Terms of the deal that brought the Beatles music to iTunes could not be learned.

The Journal wasn't sure how much the addition of the Beatles' library might mean to iTunes' sales. The iTunes store saw sales of $4.1 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year, up roughly 23% from a year ago. The business represents about 8% of total revenue and is roughly 70% the size of Barnes & Noble (BKS).

The Beatles' arrival in the digital age comes late compared with that of most other major acts. The group was also a latecomer to the CD era, waiting until 1987 to issue their main body of work on CDs. Most other groups had moved to CDs earlier in the 1980s, the Journal noted.

Their music was held back again until 2009 before remastered CDs were issued with improved sound quality.

While recorded-music sales have plummeted, the Beatles have remained very good business. In 2009, 39 years after breaking up, they sold the third-highest number of albums of any act in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, with 3.3 million copies.

In the past decade, the Beatles sold the second-highest number of albums of any artist, trailing Eminem by 2 million units. Since Soundscan was founded in 1991, the Fab Four have sold the second-highest number of albums. Only Garth Brooks has sold more.
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