Report: Apple, Beatles close to iTunes deal

The Beatles’ noticeable absence from Apple’s iTunes Store could soon be a thing of the past if a report in Fortune proves to be correct. The Time Warner-owned business magazine is reporting that Apple is close to a deal for putting the British rock group’s music catalog online. What’s more, Fortune reports, Apple could be on the verge of becoming the exclusive online source for Beatles downloads for a limited time.

If the deal comes to pass, it would be quite a coup for Apple. Not only would it mark the long-awaited arrival of the Beatles in the online music market, it would also be a significant accomplishment given Apple’s oft-tumultuous relationship with the music group’s business arm, Apple Corps, over the years.

“It would certainly be a trophy,” said Ross Rubin, director of analysis at market-research firm NPD Group. “[Steve] Jobs has publicly professed his admiration for the Beatles and their music. This is the kind of fan base that really leads to a lot of possibilities.”

According to the report, Apple Computer and Apple Corps were hoping to announce the deal with the Nov. 21 debut of Love , the band’s newest release, but details of the arrangement could not be finalized in time.

Quoting an industry executive, Fortune said the two parties still have to work out exclusivity rights for iTunes and the amount of money Apple will put upfront to get the music. There are also discussions on whether Beatles music can be used in a commercial.

Apple declined comment on the Fortune report. “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation,” a spokesperson said.

It comes as somewhat of a surprise that Apple Corps would use iTunes to make the Beatles’ music available for download. Earlier this year, the company lost a lawsuit against Apple in which it had accused the computer maker of breaking a 1991 agreement by using the Apple logo to sell music-related products such as the iPod and iTunes.

However, when it comes down to a business deal of this magnitude, Rubin said both sides want what’s best for their respective bottom lines.

“Even though the two sides have met in court several times, the truth is their interests really are aligned here,” Rubin said. “iTunes is the market leading product compatible with the market leading player. Putting aside any history, if you’re going to move into a medium, you want to the most impact and iTunes is where it is.”

The ruling in the lawsuit is under appeal, but that could be abandoned if the two companies finalize an agreement to bring the Beatles to iTunes.

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