Rolling Stones Catalog Hits Web

The Rolling Stones catalog is to be made immediately available for legitimate digital distribution for the first time.

The Rolling Stones catalog is to be made immediately available for legitimate digital distribution for the first time. For a two-week exclusive period, the Rhapsody online subscription service and Best Buy will offer the entire post-1971 Rolling Stones catalog as part of a deal with Virgin/EMI, and the pre-1971 Stones material in an agreement with ABKCO. At the end of the exclusive period on Aug. 31, the EMI material will be made available for download through all legitimate services, including Apple's iTunes Music Store and MusicNet.

The exclusive two-week deal kicks off a long-term pact between Rhapsody, which is owned by Seattle-based RealNetworks, and Best Buy. The 560-store, Minneapolis-based retail chain has installed up to 10 kiosks in each of its outlets where customers can experience Rhapsody. During the two-week Stones promotion, patrons can sign up for a 14-day free Rhapsody trial in Best Buy stores and through bestbuy.com. Best Buy will also sell subscriptions to Rhapsody, which costs $9.95 per month for unlimited streams and an additional 79 cents to burn individual tunes. Also during the two-week promotion, Best Buy will offer a 10% discount on the Rolling Stones' EMI CD catalog.

The Stones, one of the last superstar acts to offer its music online, "realized the time was right and that this was a good opportunity that also tied in with physical retail," says Ted Cohen, EMI senior VP of digital development and distribution. "The tie-in with Best Buy will give people confidence to buy music online, because they're getting music from people they are already used to buying from."

RealNetworks VP of music Sean Ryan says Rhapsody had been in discussions with EMI and ABKCO for more than a year to secure the catalogs. The companies had also been in talks to create a Rhapsody/Best Buy brand. "The Stones deal is just part of a bigger ongoing relationship between us and Best Buy," he says. "This is the mainstreaming of digital services."