Apple announced Tuesday that the Beatles' recordings would be available for purchase on iTunes, after a day of speculation about what the company's iTunes-related news would be.
At 10 a.m. ET, the group's 13 original albums, the two-volume Past Masters compilation, the 1962-66 and 1967-70 collections became available from the iTunes' Store as albums or individual songs. Also available is a digital boxed set featuring a video recording of the group's entire first U.S. concert in 1964 — and that concert can be streamed for free from the iTunes site through the end of this year.
"We're really excited to bring the Beatles' music to iTunes," Paul McCartney said in a statement. "It's fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around."
"We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "It has been a long and winding road to get here. Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realizing a dream we've had since we launched iTunes 10 years ago."
By late Monday afternoon the Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the situation," said the announcement would involve the Beatles' digital catalog. The paper said that the deal was being negotiated as recently as last week between Apple, representatives for the Beatles and their record label, EMI.
Apple and the group have had a long and often fraught relationship, and not just because the computer giant and the Beatles' custom label share a name (which was the cause of the first legal action between the two companies, in 1978).
Due to the complexities of the Beatles' finances, the group has been late to many developments in the music industry: Its catalog was not released on CD until 1987, and boxed sets of unreleased material were not released until the mid-1990s, after being available on bootlegs for decades. When the group's catalog was finally remastered and released last September, a press release simply said: "Discussions regarding the digital distribution of the catalogue will continue. There is no further information available at this time."
Apple iTunes, at Long Last, Gets Rights to Beatles [Wall Street Journal]