On Monday Fortune magazine reported that Apple is negotiating with The Beatles to distribute their music online via an exclusive arrangement with the iTunes store. The deal would be a coup considering that The Beatles have yet to license their music to be sold online and they are one of the last major holdouts that people mention when criticizing online music sales.
The buzz began in April 2006 when Apple Corps Ltd. (The Beatles record label) head Neil Aspinall mentioned that they were re-mastering the entire Beatles catalog:
We're re-mastering the whole Beatles catalog, just to make it sound brighter and better and getting proper booklets to go with each of the packages. I think it would be wrong to offer downloads of the old masters when I am making new masters. 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.
The deal would also be a coup for Apple Computer because Apple Corps' Aspinall and company are probably still a little miffed over losing their legal case against Apple Computer in May 2006 over the use of the Apple logo on the iTunes Music Store. The companies have been in court three times in as many decades.
The Beatles situation took another interesting twist with AppleInsider's report that Steve Jobs may have engineered another coup: a Beatles exclusive iPod and even an iPod television commercial featuring the iconic band's music. A Beatles iPod would follow similar deals with U2 and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter for collector's edition iPods.
The Collector's Edition U2 iPod was released in October 2004 and features a black enclosure with a red click wheel and custom engraving of U2 band member signatures. Apple also offered their first digital box set, "The Complete U2," containing over 400 tracks including all of the band's albums and over 25 rare and unreleased tracks for US$149.
The Collector's Edition Harry Potter iPod was released in September 2005 engraved with the Hogwarts crest and featuring the complete Harry Potter Digital Box Set which includes a full color digital booklet as well as previously unreleased readings from author J.K. Rowling.
It will be interesting to see what Apple has in store on this one.