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Sergeant Pepper goes online

iTunes offers McCartney's Live 8 opener to raise funds

Within hours of London's opening Live 8 performance by Bono and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, Apple's iTunes Music Store made the performance of The Beatles' ’Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’ available for purchase through its store.

The track, sung by McCartney with U2 as the all-star backing band, is also available on 200 digital music services worldwide, along with McCartney's rendition of The Beatles' ’The Long and Winding Road’.

In an attempt to harness digital music services to deliver the fastest-ever global release of a live track, Universal Music Group worked with partners including the BBC and Capital Radio to make Live 8's opening track available for sale within one hour of its performance.

All profits are to be donated to Live 8 and "the fight for the future of Africa", according to the iTunes website.

The move is especially notable since The Beatles' company Apple, owned by McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison, currently has a suit filed against Apple Computer. It accuses it of infringing an agreement between the companies that Apple Computer would not use the word Apple or an apple logo in conjunction with any music business activity.

"The proceeds from the download sales are being donated to Live 8," Universal confirmed in a statement. The release will not be made available as a physical product; distribution is to be a digital exclusive.

"Music fans have an opportunity to set a world record of their own, by buying the downloadable Sergeant Pepper more than any other track previously released online," Universal said.

Achieving this required a unique partnership between all involved. Immediately after its performance, the show's opening track was transmitted by satellite to BBC TV Centre in London. It was then relayed to Capital Radio.

"A direct digital recording was captured there for Universal, which edited, mastered and transmitted the track to its production centre in Hanover, Germany," Universal said.

The final master was sent to the company's global electronic distribution warehouse in the US. From there it was delivered instantly to online retailers worldwide as the first Live 8 download, the company said.

The Live 8 concerts were designed to put pressure on world leaders to take action to relieve poverty when they meet Wednesday for the G8 meeting at Gleneagles, Scotland.

The decision by McCartney to permit the music to be sold online underscores the unique nature of the Live 8 events. McCartney has been notably reticent to allow the sale of his recordings through digital outlets.

Bill Gates also took the stage during the London event, to remind governments, musicians and the millions watching the show that the solution to great problems is to throw resources and commitment at them.

Apple has assembled songs from the artists who gave live performances at the concerts, in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Johannesberg, Moscow, Tokyo, Philadelphia, and Barrie, Ontario. It’s offering them on dedicated page within iTunes.

Meanwhile, Live 8 is appealing for signatures to an online petition which will be presented to eight world leaders on July 6. It is at Live8List.com.


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