PLUGGED:
With the Beatles putting yet another long-running legal dispute behind them, the road is becoming increasingly clearer for bringing the Fab Four's catalog to digital music services.

By settling its royalty dispute with EMI, the two parties can now get down to serious discussions about adding the Beatles catalog to digital retail outlets. The Beatles holdout is perhaps the highest-profile catalog still missing from the likes of iTunes and other online stores. Once available, the Beatles catalog could work wonders to draw in an older demographic still gun-shy over joining the digital music revolution.

There are still holdouts. Led Zeppelin is the first that immediately comes to mind, and there are others. But The Beatles are by far the classic rock Holy Grail for digital music.

I'm not privy to the negotiations, but the next hurdle will likely be over cost. Like most timeless acts with immensely popular catalogs, the Beatles will likely hold out for a deal with a service willing to pay a significant up-front payment to get exclusive rights to the catalog for a certain period of time. Obviously the only digital service in any position to make that deal is Apple's iTunes.

But even once that exclusive period ends, there is still a disparity of how music is offered online which continues to muddy the digital music scene. Look at subscription services. As a Rhapsody user, I have access to most artists, but a few -- like Metallica -- offer their music in a purchase-only basis. Others, like Bob Dylan, offer a large swatch of catalog on subscription services, but inexplicably omit certain staples-like "Highway 61 Revisited."

If the Beatles do go digital, I only hope the go digital fully.

UNPLUGGED:
MySpace achieved its phenomenal popularity through a very simple equation -- provide a platform to let users do whatever they want, and then leave them alone.

The company's recent efforts to block non-authorized, third-party Web applications betrays this philosophy and is already causing a backlash against the now NewsCorp-owned social networking community.

First, MySpace began blocking outgoing music applications such as MOG And Indie911, citing legal concerns over users providing unauthorized access to music it can't control. OK I get that you need to be careful, particularly when being sued by Universal Music Group, but these are legal services in their own right. MySpace has since agreed to allow the third-party links, only if those services register with music ID firm Audible Magic.

Then, earlier this week, MySpace began blocking embedded videos originating from Photobucket -- a service with more than 40 million users. MySpace said the move was due to the fact that Photobucket allowed users to embed ad-supported slide shows, a violation of its terms of service.

But taken as a whole, these moves show how MySpace is exerting more control over what members can and can't do on the site. NewsCorp I'm sure would rather members use the music and video applications it provides, not third-party apps and widgets.

If MySpace/NewsCorp wants members to use only its technology, then it should endeavor to provide the best technology, not just force members into a "my way or the highway" approach.

The Web is about freedom, not restriction. Heeding that message was key to MySpace's rise to dominance. Ignoring it could lead to its downfall.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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