Pop & Hiss

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Beatles downloads for 25 cents? For now.

November 2, 2009 |  4:31 pm


The Beatles catalog remains the digital Holy Grail -- one of the few iTunes holdouts. Even as the band has made its music available for a video game and licensed works to commercials, the Beatles remain one of the few acts to not place its music for sale on the world's No. 1 digital retailer. 

Is it possible that the EMI and Apple Corps. would completely bypass name brands such as iTunes and Amazon and go straight to a little-known digital download discount website? Unlikely, but for now, the Beatles catalog -- and pretty much every other known artist in the major-label stables -- is available online at BlueBeat.com.

"We're looking into it" was the only comment from an EMI spokeswoman. At the moment, users can stream the Beatles' remastered CDs, as well as purchase any Beatles song for 25 cents.

Wired's Epicenter discovered the the songs, and even purchased them, noting that the buy went through without a hitch.

Wrote Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk:

We were able to purchase all 17 songs on the remastered version of Abbey Road for $4.55 (including a 30-cent service charge) using a Paypal account, and the songs appeared in our Music folder as advertised. The MP3s are 160 Kbps, and the file’s song information tags list “2009 BlueBeat.com” as the copyright holder.

BlueBeat press releases name Hank Risan as the company CEO, and Pop & Hiss has a call in to his office. BlueBeat lists as its mission that it aims to "stop the insanity of overpriced online music." The company's FAQ section even references the Beatles when discussing how some of its features work.

It's not entirely uncommon for unlicensed music to show up for download or purchase on a seemingly legit-looking site, but usually the companies are headquartered in a country with less stringent copyright rules. BlueBeat is listed as being based in Santa Cruz.

In addition to the Beatles, one can find selections from AC/DC and Def Leppard on BlueBeat, artists who haven't licensed their full catalogs to iTunes. 

-- Todd Martens



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Photo credits: Apple Corps