The Beatles Go Digital (For Now)

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For the first time ever, the entire Beatles’ catalogue is now available to purchase in digital form. But it may not be legal and it may not last for long.

In the past, Apple Corp (the music label not the computer company) and EMI, the companies who distribute the Beatles music worldwide, have appeared willing to release the tracks digitally, but continue to stall. The recent release of the Beatles’ Rock Band videogame was a step forward, but for now, even popular legitimate music download services like iTunes do not carry the Fab Four’s material.

So it came as a big surprise to many in the music community when a little known music Web site called BlueBeat.com started offering the coveted material last week. The site is charging the remarkably low rate of 25 cents per track (part of the BlueBeat’s gimmick is that every track on the site costs a quarter). On top of that, users have the option to stream all the music for free if you sign up for a free account.

Wired.com reports that one of their writers was able to successfully download and listen to the material on the site. “[W]e were able to purchase all 17 songs on the remastered version of Abbey Road for $4.55 (including a 30-cent service charge) using a Paypal account, and the songs appeared in our Music folder as advertised. The MP3s are 160 Kbps, and the file’s song information tags list “2009 BlueBeat.com” as the copyright holder.”

Less clear is whether BlueBeat has the right to offer these tracks. Representatives from the site have not responded to requests for comments from any publication including MainStreet about how and whether they obtained the rights to the tracks. But a spokesperson for Apple Corp reportedly told Wired that BlueBeat is offering these tracks without their consent.

In fact, as the London Times notes, BlueBeat also offers at least one other artist that has long refrained from making their catalog available digitally: ACDC.

Given how unlikely it is that they have obtained these tracks legally, it seems inevitable that the catalog will be forcibly taken down in the coming weeks. But for now, the Beatles have entered the digital age, at last.

 

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