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Beatles for Sale on Net?

Their catalog may soon be downloadable

June 17, 2004 12:00 AM ET

The Beatles catalog -- the holy grail of legal downloadable music -- may be coming to a Web site near you. Until now, the Beatles have refused to sell their music online. But sources at more than one online music store confirm that the band is now shopping the catalog -- at an asking price of more than $10 million.

"It would be a huge coup," says Michelle Santosuosso, vice president of artist and label relations at Napster, which plans to make a bid. "The more these franchise artists make this music available legally, the better chance the music industry has at taking back the market share from illegal p-to-p acquisition." Currently, artists including AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Bob Seger don't allow their music to be downloaded.

Jeanne Meyer, a spokeswoman for EMI, which owns the masters recordings of the Beatles catalog, says that there have been ongoing discussions with the Beatles for years about licensing their music digitally. "We would be over the moon if it finally happened," says Meyer. A spokesman for the Beatles did not return calls.

Because the price tag is so high, some speculate that the winner will be Microsoft's music store, which will launch later this year. "It would be a black eye for Apple if someone else got the Beatles," says Josh Bernoff, a music analyst at Forrester Research. "But they already have seventy percent of the market, so they don't need it."

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