Media multinational Viacom is publishing The Beatles: Rock Band through its MTV Games label, with Electronic Arts distributing and Harmonix developing the project. However, it's the rights-holders for the Beatles' songs and likenesses who may really cash in if the game, set for release on September 9, is a massive hit.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Viacom entered into an extremely generous royalties arrangement that guarantees the rights-holders at least $10 million. However, if the heavily hyped title sells well, those payments could increase to a whopping $40 million, three anonymous sources told the newspaper.
One reason for the massive payday may be the number of songs featured in The Beatles: Rock Band--45 in total. Another is the number of parties who need to be paid. The majority of song rights are owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture of Sony Corp. and the recently deceased singer Michael Jackson's estate. Two other record labels control the remainder of the music and likeness rights for the Beatles, who are digitally re-created in the game: Apple Corps (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) and EMI Music (the estates of the late John Lennon and George Harrison).
To counter the high cost, MTV Games was initially releasing only two versions of The Beatles: Rock Band: a $60 a la carte version and a pricey $250 limited edition with replicas of the guitar, bass, and drum set used by the band. However, last week, online retailers began listing a "value edition" of the game with standard Rock Band instruments for $140-$160. According to the Times, the value edition was created in part because MTV Games has an overstock of Rock Band instruments it's having problems selling due to the music genre's waning popularity.