We’re still waiting for The Beatles to finally start selling the back-catalog online, but the band looks set to take one more step in that direction Thursday. Their *Apple* Corps label and MTV will announce “an exclusive agreement to develop a global music project” at 10 a.m. eastern time (2pm UK) — and a number of people expect that the Fab Four’s tunes will be included in the Rock Band video game.
MTV owns Rock Band developer Harmonix and PR staff for the game are listed on the announcement invitation. It seems likely that, though Beatles tracks still aren’t available for legal download, fans will get to channel Liverpool’s finest via the game’s bundled drumkit, guitar and microphone. Such a deal may be a snub to Rock Band rival Guitar Hero – in June, FT.com reported *Apple* Corps was speaking with both Harmonix and Guitar Hero maker Activision (NSDQ: ATVI). Also expected at Thursday’s event: no less than MTVN (NYSE: VIA) CEO Judy McGrath, *Apple* Corp CEO Jeff Jones and MTV’s music unit president Van Toffler.
Games with well-known tunes have proved to be particularly popular in the last couple of years, not only with gamers but with musicians, who are increasingly seeing the titles as new distribution outlets: Guitar Hero has done or is doing Aerosmith, Metallica and Hendrix editions, and Rock Band has done an AC/DC track pack. A Beatles edition, if released in time, could be a big Christmas hit with older gamers.
Update: WSJ cites several sources who confirm a Rock Band deal but are avoiding details. Hard to believe they wouldn’t launch for the 2008 holiday season but you never know.
FT.com’s original source estimated the license to be “several million dollars”. The Beatles’ archive could be one of the most valuable yet to be unleashed on the digital world but has so far been a hold-out, mired in a patchwork of rightsholders that include EMI, band members, Sony/ATV etc. Various lawsuits were settled last year, though, and Paul McCartney himself forecast the digital question would be solved in ’08. There’s still no retail component, but at least this rumored news suggests greater digital licensing flexibility.