Stones Headed for CBS; $25 Million Deal in Works

Contract calls for four new albums.

Rolling Stones Ron Wood Keith Richards
Ebet Roberts/Redferns
Ron Wood and Keith Richards playing guitars in hotel room circa 1983.
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Though the Rolling Stones plan to release a new LP in October through Atlantic Records, the group may have a new home for its logo by next year. At press time, the Stones were close to signing a reported $25 million contract with CBS Records.

The deal would apparently provide CBS with distribution rights to four new LPs by the Rolling Stones over an as-yet-undetermined period of time. It is also said to include the repackaging rights to the entire Rolling Stones Records catalog, which includes twelve LPs, starting with 1971's Sticky Fingers. The new pact would take effect sometime during the next eighteen months, after the band delivers its next LP and a greatest-hits collection to Atlantic.

"I think Atlantic Records has done a spectacular job," said a source close to the group. "They've given the band the freedom to do whatever they wanted. My personal feeling is that CBS just made a very nice dollar-figure offer."

CBS/Records Group president Walter Yetnikoff was meeting with Stones business manager Prince Rupert Loewenstein at press time and was unavailable for comment. The deal, however, seems imminent. On August 10th, Yetnikoff told several associates at his fiftieth birthday party in New York City that he "had it" and was closing the deal. It was reportedly Mick Jagger who had lured Yetnikoff to the surprise birthday bash.

Throughout the summer, Loewenstein met with representatives from at least four major labels: Atlantic, MCA, EMI and CBS. Atlantic is said to have offered $16 million for the four-LP deal, though no one from Atlantic would confirm that figure.

But just how lucrative the Stones deal will be for CBS – currently the hottest of the major labels, boasting a profit of $67 million for the first half of 1983, the largest in the company's history – remains uncertain. Discounting sales of catalog records, the new deal could mean that CBS will have to sell millions of copies of the new Stones LPs in order to turn a profit. This seems unlikely: In the U.S., which is by far the world's biggest record-buying market, only three Stones albums – Black and Blue, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You – have ever been certified platinum (sales of more than 1 million).

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the Stones' catalog also includes twenty-six gold albums (sales of 500,000) and five gold singles (sales of 1 million). The group's number-two hit from Tattoo You, "Start Me Up," is not among the gold singles, which are "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Ruby Tuesday," "Honky Tonk Women," "Angie" and "Miss You." The deal shapes up as no apparent moneymaker for CBS, but as one company source said, "Some people here are saying it's a prestige move more than anything."

This story is from the September 29th, 1983 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 405: September 29, 1983
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