Apple Inc said on Tuesday it would offer the entire solo catalog of John Lennon on iTunes in its second such deal with one of the Beatles, who have been among the highest-profile holdouts to put tunes online.
The Lennon deal, a similar one with Paul McCartney, and a recent settlement to a lengthy trademark dispute between Apple and the Beatles' company, Apple Corps Ltd, is seen clearing the way finally for the Fab Four catalog to be distributed online.
Apple said 16 Lennon solo albums from EMI Group Plc were available for the first time on iTunes, with the "Lennon Legend" and "Acoustic" collections making digital debuts.
Industry sources said Apple would soon announce similar deals for the solo works of Ringo Starr and the late George Harrison.
All the band's members, except for Harrison, have in the past made some of their solo works available digitally, but not through iTunes until recently, according to EMI.
Asked in an interview in June if the Beatles catalog would be online by the end of 2008, Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison, said, "I don't know if it would be the end of this year, but it would be nice. Imminent, let's put it that way."
Apple declined to say when it expects to release the Beatles catalog.
Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at trade magazine Billboard, said the market has been expecting Apple to release the Beatles catalog since the settlement in February.
But the challenge has been in getting approval from the band's two surviving members as well as the estates of Harrison and Lennon, he added. The band's organization has traditionally adopted a conservative approach to new technology.
He said the fact that Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, signed off on distributing his solo works bolstered the likelihood of a deal even further.
"I would suspect that she'd be amenable to approving the sale of Beatles catalog online now that she's approved Lennon's solo catalog for online sales," Mayfield said.
Ono said in a statement on Tuesday: "John would have loved the fact that his music will now be available in a format suited to a new generation of listeners."
Apple also said that for just 30 days, exclusive video content would be included with the albums "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band," "Sometime in New York City," "Walls and Bridges," "Milk and Honey" and the collections "Anthology" and "Working Class Hero."