The Beatles had been the most prominent holdout from iTunes and other online music services. On Tuesday, Apple Inc. said its iTunes store will start selling downloads of songs and albums from the group, in an agreement with the Beatles' recording label, EMI Group Ltd., and its management company, Apple Corps Ltd.
Apple will sell 13 remastered Beatles studio albums, the two-volume "Past Masters" set and the classic "Red" and "Blue" collections. People can buy individual songs for $1.29 apiece or download entire albums, at $12.99 for a single album and $19.99 for a double.
For $149, Apple is also selling a special digital box set that includes a download of the 41-minute movie of the Beatles' first U.S. concert, "Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964."
Until Tuesday, Apple Corps had resisted selling Beatles music as online downloads. The situation was exacerbated by a long-running trademark dispute between Apple Inc. and Apple Corps. It was resolved in 2007 when the companies agreed on joint use of the apple logo and name, and many people saw that as paving the way for an agreement for online access to Beatles songs.
With the Beatles now in Apple's music store, the number of holdouts has dwindled. Garth Brooks, Kid Rock and AC/DC are among the remaining artists who refuse to sell their work through Apple. Some want more control over pricing or the ability to force shoppers to download entire albums instead of individual songs.
Until now, to listen to Beatles songs on iPods, you'd have to obtain a CD and "rip" an online version of it - or find someone who already has, legalities aside.
Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, couldn't resist celebrating the Beatles' arrival on iTunes with an obvious quip.
"It has been a long and winding road to get here," he said in a statement, referencing the song "The Long and Winding Road" from the Beatles' 1970 "Let it Be" album.
"Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realizing a dream we've had since we launched iTunes ten years ago," Jobs said.
In a press release, former band members and their relatives all gave the deal their blessings, including Sir Paul McCartney; Beatles drummer Ringo Starr; Yoko Ono Lennon, John Lennon's widow; and Olivia Harrison, widow of George Harrison.
"I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes," Starr said.
The deal gives Apple a sweet public relations boost at the start of the holiday shopping season, but sales of Beatles music won't make much of a financial impact on the company.
Brian Marshall, an analyst for Gleacher & Co., said he believes Beatles fans with iPods and other digital music players have already converted their physical CDs into digital tracks. Even if people do rush to their computers for a "Yellow Submarine" fix, Apple's other businesses are the real moneymakers. In the most recent quarter, Apple's revenue was $20.3 billion, and iTunes sales made up just 5 percent, Marshall said.
For the music industry, the arrival of the Beatles for download might mean even less.
"The digital music market (and the young music fans record labels desperately need to get engaged) need new music products, not yesteryear's hits repackaged," said Mark Mulligan, a Forrester analyst, in a statement.
Apple swapped out its home page design for a black and white image of the Beatles in silhouette.
Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., will also be running a series of minimalist television commercials that combine footage and photos of the band with classic songs such as "All You Need is Love" and "Let it Be."
Apple shares slipped $5.62, or 1.8 percent, to $301.41 in midday trading Tuesday.