Beatles: Universal-EMI Deal Still Has Gray Areas
The $1.9 billion deal to sell EMI to Universal Music Group is apparently done. The decade-old plan to merge EMI with Warner Music is over, kaput, forever. EMI’s biggest group, The Beatles, now goes to Universal Music Group. Or does it? The Beatles’ Apple Corps has unique arrangements with EMI, very different than most artists. A Beatle insider talked to me about this a few weeks ago. Apple Records and EMI are partners in their deal for Beatles albums. It’s not like the Beatles are simply part of the EMI inventory. So it will be interesting to see how Apple, which has been notoriously aggressive since the day it was conceived in 1968, will just play along. For example, Apple exacted a $500 million settlement out of Steve Jobs for infringement of the Apple trademark. As well, in order to bring the Beatles to Apple’s ITunes one year ago, it’s understood that ITunes pays the Beatles directly, and then the Beatles’s Apple pays EMI. If you don’t think this adds up to a lot of money, let me tell you: the Beatles stereo box set is still a top seller at $179. With a paucity of music created by rappers, hip hoppers, and pop samplers from 1985 on, older catalogs are worth more and more. The Beatles’ is worth the most. So we’ll wait and see if Apple (Records, that is) is happy with the EMI deal in the long run. “They could just as easily buy out their portion and move on,” said my source. True enough. At this point, the Beatles could be their own label without any trouble. And they do plan more releases in the next few years under their innovative leader, Jeff Jones.