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Beatles to bless Rock Band

Drum along with Ringo

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Apple Corps, the Beatles' licensing company, is expected to announce a deal that brings the catalogue to the popular play-along game Rock Band today. Press received notification of a new "Global Music Project" partnership with Apple Corps from MTV yesterday. Viacom subsidiary MTV in turn owns the developer of Rock Band, Harmonix.

Apple Corps has snubbed the digital downloads market, but its reluctance doesn't seem so daft now, given the phenomenal growth of karaoke-style playalong games. Although digital song sales snagged over $2bn last year, most of which is through the other Apple's iTunes Store, the market for music-based games including Guitar Hero and Rock Band is almost as large at $1.2bn, and is growing at a far faster clip. By comparison, ringtones generated $7bn last year. That's serious money.

As with the Nintendo Wii, it demonstrates how successful technology companies can be when they remember the basics. And it also shows how much real value can be generated - and real dollars returned to creators - when the music business thinks about licensing, rather than merely shifting units.

One problem has already been posed in the Wall Street Journal, which trails today's announcement. With much of the Beatles' Baby Boomer audience old enough to be Steve Jobs' Dad - how appealing will the Beatles catalogue be to the partying twenty-somethings who have helped Rock Band ratchet up four million sales?

We'll doubtless find out when the press conference - scheduled for 2pm UK time (7am Pacific Time) - gets underway. But the answer's obvious. Just create an "indie edition" that features a bit less When I'm 64 and a bit more Paperback Writer - along with perennial stoner faves Rain and Flying.

Sorted. ®

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