Beatles Go Downtown: Fab Four Classics Go to Indie Music Publisher (Exclusive)

The Beatles arrive in America on February 7, 1964

The Beatles

The Beatles are going Downtown, or at least a small but important part of their early catalog is.

In a just-announced deal with the estate of John Lennon, Downtown will now serve as U.S. administrator for the first two Beatles singles, which consisted of four songs: “Please Please Me,” “Ask Me Why,” “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.” The deal also includes the band’s lone post-breakup song, “Free as a Bird.” 

The acquired Beatles copyrights were previously with Universal Music Publishing Group, but the Lennon estate recovered those songs through copyright termination and reversions procedure as laid out by U.S. copyright law. The songs remained at UMPG through an administration deal, and after that ended, Downtown cut its deal.

Exclusive: John Lennon, Yoko Ono Catalogs Sign With Downtown Music Publishing

The overwhelming majority of the Lennon-McCartney catalog remains with Sony/ATV. Also, earlier this year, Round Hill Music announced it acquired the North American copyrights for six early Beatles songs: “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You,” “There’s a Place,” “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Misery.”

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With the exception of the Lennon initially-penned  “Free as a Bird,” the songs were written by Lennon-McCartney, and Downtown will administer the Lennon portion of the five songs. The version of “Free as a Bird” finished by the other Beatles is credited to all four members.

Downtown president Justin Kalifowitz says his company is “privileged” to represent the songs. “These new signings reflect our direction and continued expansion as a full-service music publisher.”

Launched in 2007, the Downtown catalog now consists of 60,000 copyrights, and its roster includes such recent signings as Trevor Rabin (Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”), writer/artist Stephen Bishop (Phil Collins’ “Separate Lives,” the “Animal House” theme) and Elliot Wolff (Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” and “Cold Hearted,” Taylor Dayne’s “Heart of Stone”), as well as Yoko Ono, Mötley Crüe, Social Distortion, Ellie Goulding, Deee-Lite and Lennon’s solo catalog.

The high-profile deal comes as Downtown continues to chart its future course, after splitting with the Downtown Records label earlier this year.

Since then, the publishing company has opened a Los Angeles office and plans further expansion next year in two other cities. Along the way, it expects to add more staff. The publishing company currently employs 32 people, but when staffing for its production library business and recording studio operation are added, the total climbs to 45.

In January, the company announced the signing of publishing administration agreements for the U.S. with Lenono Music and Ono Music, home to the song catalogs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono respectively

Moreover, Downtown is leveraging the assets of its Songtrust operation that provides administration services to independent artists and songwriters on a global basis.

“We are now incorporating the Songtrust technology into our own operation,” Kalifowitz says. “We will now have automated copyright registration and will be able to track royalty payment inefficiencies, as well as collect payments directly from 16 different societies around the world.”

Going forward, Kalifowitz says Downtown will grow organically, through either songwriter signings or buying individual songwriter catalogs. It’s not looking to buy a competitor.