Beatles Go Hi-Fi For CD...

...MP3 Still A Mystery

The Beatles’ availability through online music retail may be lurching, slowly ever closer - but don’t bet on it. EMI Music and the band’s Apple Corps company say the back catalogue has been “digitally remastered” for release on compact disc on September 9 (9-9-09), the same day the Beatles: Rock Band video game drops.

It would be easy to speculate, as many sites are today, that this points the way to The Beatles’ arrival, finally, on online stores and maybe even ad-supported sites. But there’s still no mention of digital sell-through beyond the statement: “Discussions regarding the digital distribution of the catalogue will continue.” With this saga having rolled on for more than two years now, we wouldn’t hold our breath that this should be taken as significant. Price still seems to be an issue - McCartney in November: “They (EMI) want something we’re not prepared to give them.”

But the Rock Band project is clearly about more than just the game, and the harmony that broke out between EMI, Apple Corps and new game partner Harmonix for the game will have had an interesting side-effect. Producer Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer Sir George, had said the game will adhere to his father’s original mixes. Tidied up with today’s audio editing software for the game and now the CD reissue, they may also sound good enough to take advantage of modern, digital sound systems. Distributed online, however, the new high fidelity would be all lost as MP3 or AAC and would depend on high-quality FLAC files, still used only by audiophiles.

Online Beatles release could lead to a sales surge for online retailers - after all, many original Beatles fans are of the demographic that still actually buys music. But, for such a highly prized commodity, a digital music business in which the economics are still in flux may prove too much to stomach for the rightsholders. It’s not clear EMI would want to scupper its September CD reissue by letting the music go wild and free online is another question.

By Robert Andrews
Copyright ContentNext Media Inc. 2002—2009

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