Best-selling artistes free online

Springsteen and Ronson's back catalogues and R.E.M.'s new album will be available soon
Tuesday , 11 March 2008
Best-selling artistes free online

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MARK RONSON and LEONA LEWIS are among a number of artistes whose back catalogues will be made available for free online after record label Sony BMG signed a deal with music website We7.

In a groundbreaking move, the music giant is the first major label to sign up to the site - which offers music streaming free of charge - and will start making the back catalogues of its best-selling artistes available by the end of April.

Fans of Sony BMG's biggest artists will no longer have to pay to listen to their favourite tracks online, with adverts being placed at the beginning of streams to generate revenue for the artists instead. The adverts will be removed from the download automatically after 30 days online.

Prior to the deal, the site only streamed free music from independent record labels and unsigned artists.

Sony BMG is reportedly making over 250,000 tracks from its archives available on the site, which was founded by ex-Genesis rocker Peter Gabriel.

However, music fans will not be able to download the available songs to their personal computers; they will only be allowed to stream the music while online.

Ged Doherty, chairman of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, says, "We are in the business of embracing a multitude of new ways our music can reach audiences. Our deal with We7 is an important step forward in offering fans greater flexibility in how they consume music."

Rockers R.E.M. are also set to make musical history at the end of March when they become the first major act to launch an album on a social networking website.

Fans will be able to stream and share the band's Accelerate album on iLike.com a week before it hits record stores on 1 April.

Frontman Michael Stipe tells Billboard.com, "It was one of those ideas that was presented to us and it seemed like a good one."

Meanwhile, Computer giant Apple Inc. has denied reports the BEATLES' back catalogue will soon be made available on their download website iTunes.

Ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney was allegedly planning to release the Fab Four's entire collection of songs and albums onto the music website in the coming months, to counter a hefty divorce payout to former wife Heather Mills.

The former glamour model - who represented herself in the divorce case last month - could reportedly walk away with $120 million of the singer's estimated $1.65 billion personal fortune when a London judge delivers his settlement decision on 17 March.

The addition of such albums as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the White Album and Help! to iTunes was estimated to be worth around $400 million for McCartney if reports were true.

But a spokesperson for Apple Inc. has dismissed the claims, telling US publication Billboard, "This is not news nor is it a scoop."