Home Music Beatles Out of Tune with iTunes: Publisher Will Negotiate Fees Directly

There’s a big change coming in the way the Beatles’ music publisher will deal with digital music providers starting January 1st. Sony/ATV Music, which has the Beatles catalog and is co-owned by the Michael Jackson estate–and now also has the Michael Jackson catalog like “Beat It” and “Billie Jean”-is doing something groundbreaking. They’re going to negotiate directly with digital download companies like iTunes, amazon, Pandora, Spotify.

Sony ATV is leaving traditional music license companies ASCAP and BMI for collecting royalties–just for digital, not anything else. ASCAP and BMI will continue to monitor and collect all other performance royalties on Sony ATV Music.

But with the lions share of music switching to digital downloads, Sony ATV is going to cut deals directly with the companies involved instead of leaving it to BMI and ASCAP. They think this will be better for the artists, who’ve been getting blanket deals with regular licensing. BMI and ASCAP have been representing artists and their royalties since time began.

For the Beatles with iTunes, this should be especially interesting. iTunes and Apple still have exclusive on downloading Beatles music. But when the deal was made, EMI–the Beatles’ overall record company–agreed to let the Beatles themselves collect the money from iTunes and then pay EMI. Now EMI has been sold to Universal Music Group. (I know, this gets complicated.) The bottom line is that the Beatles are already getting the sweetest deal ever with iTunes on their records being downloaded. Now John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s music publisher–Sony/ATV–will try and get even better deals with iTunes on the publishing end.

Will other music publishers follow suit and leave BMI and ASCAP to make their own digital deals? If so, the music licensing firms will face their own pronlems with those revenues cut.

2 replies to this post
  1. Just to clarify. Sony/ATV owns the copyrights to more than 200 Lennon/McCartney songs. Sony/ATV only administers the copyrights to Michael Jackson’s music and it does not own the copyrights. The Estate of Michael Jackson owns the copyrights. It is an important distinction.

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