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April 15, 2006

The Beatles offer songs for legal download

The top story in Friday's USA Today Money section focuses on the announcement that not only are the surviving members of The Beatles participating in a remastering of all of The Beatles' CDs but also that those remastered tracks will be made available for legal download once they are finished.

According to the story, the group's music has been held off from the the legal download market because they did not want to push their old tracks out when they were in the process of creating aesthetically superior work that better reflects the music.

The story, by Jefferson Graham, includes statistics from the Beatles/Cirque Du Soleil performances in Las Vegas that claims that the Beatles "are bigger than ever," according to Martin Lewis, a "Beatles expert" who hosts a Beatles show on Sirius radio.

The story discusses the frustration of Beatles fans of having only one recourse to have digital copies of Beatles' music--buy the CDs and then transfer them onto the hard drive and then onto the iPod--which has led to estimates of "hundreds of millions" of illegal downloads of Beatles songs.

Of course, plenty of people will be downloading the music for free even after these are made available, and it could be too little too late, but the promise of quality tracks being released may make enough people, especially Beatles fanatics, to be willing to chip in to buying the remastered CDs or the new tracks.

Is it "too little, too late" for The Beatles? Have they lost too much profit already? Or does the promise of owning the music legally and remastered copies make this a shrewd move? I am wondering if the wait for the remastered copies was worthwhile, considering the profits lost in the meantime. And, will the average person be willing to pay to download Beatles music they already own to have the remastered copy?

Either way, the reprecussions of this release should greatly shape how other music currently held in the archive is viewed...what is the value of remastered copies, when it comes to digital downloads? If The Beatles fare well, it will probably encourage even more growth in remastering old tracks for digital distribution. But, if The Beatles' doesn't do well in the digital realm with remastered songs, can anyone?

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