The Beatles’ back catalogue has finally gone online – in possibly the most contrived fashion imaginable. Norwegian broadcaster NRK struck a deal with the country’s music rights agency Tono to issue all 212 tracks as free podcast episodes through January only, accompanying its Daily Beatles radio series. You’ll have to subscribe to the cast and listen to a couple of minutes of Norwegian commentary unpicking the lyrics’ deeper meaning before playing the track.
Of course, this is by no means the deal that unlocks the door to what could be the biggest digital music pay day yet. One by one, the roadblocks to online Beatles retail have been overcome (individual band members already sell digitally and copyright disputes their *Apple* Corps company had with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and EMI were settled last year). But, despite Paul MacCartney saying it was “primed, ready to go” in 2008, he admitted in November that bringing Beatles to iTunes and others was again stalled between *Apple* Corps and EMI.
The digital licensing issue is clearly easing – Apple Corp is working with MTV games studio Harmonix to make a Rock Band-esque music game this year – but NRK’s podcast offering is not so much a breakthrough as a sneaky workaround. The broadcaster already aired its Daily Beatles series last year with speech only and has now made a crafty discovery: “The podcasts are available because they contain less then 70 percent music