Beatles end streaming boycott in time for Christmas

LONDON - The Beatles, the top-selling band in musical history yet a persistent holdout on new technology, announced Wednesday they would end a boycott of streaming in time for Christmas.

The Fab Four's full catalogue will be available on all major services including leader Spotify, removing the most glaring musical absence from the booming sector of streaming that allows unlimited on-demand music online.

The website of The Beatles - who have sold some 600 million albums worldwide - announced the move in a short video that featured a medley of the band's hits including "Let It Be," "Hey Jude" and "Help!" "Happy Crimble, with love from us to you," said a statement, employing a slang term for Christmas used by The Beatles.

The Beatles catalogue will start streaming at 12:01 am on Christmas Eve local time in each region of the world. 

Ringo Starr, one of two surviving Beatles along with Paul McCartney, mentioned the streaming news on Twitter with a slew of emojis, a means of expression more in line with a younger generation.

"We are coming to you from out of the blue," Starr wrote, adding, "Peace and love peace love." The Beatles were the top-selling and one of the most critically acclaimed groups of all time, releasing 13 studio albums including classics such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Abbey Road" and "Revolver" before breaking up in 1970. 

Despite The Beatles' phenomenal success, the band has repeatedly taken a slow approach to new technology.

The streaming announcement came just five years after the Liverpool-born group's back catalogue was first made available for purchase on Apple's iTunes.

The announcement means that fans will be able to listen to the band's songs on nine services - Spotify, Apple Music, Slacker, Tidal, Groove, Rhapsody, Deezer, Google Play and Amazon Prime.

The Beatles already appear on Internet radio provider Pandora and satellite radio service Sirius XM which have different regulations.

The band's recordings are controlled by its own management company, Apple Corps, and music conglomerate Universal which took over the catalogue from defunct label EMI.

The move is a major win for streaming companies, which have faced criticism from a string of artists over the amount of money they make.

Taylor Swift removed her whole back catalogue from Spotify last year but agreed to put her blockbuster album "1989" on Apple Music when it launched in June.

Adele, however, is not streaming on any service her new album "25" which nonetheless is the fastest-selling record in the United States and Britain since tracking services started keeping statistics.

The British singer, in a recent interview with Time magazine, said she did not use streaming herself and considered it "a bit disposable." Several other classic artists who initially resisted streaming have recently relented including Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

Big names who maintain full or partial boycotts of streaming sites include folk rockers Neil Young and Bob Seger, Radiohead's experimental frontman Thom Yorke and country star Garth Brooks.

Since reports first emerged on The Beatles' streaming decision, the industry has speculated whether the Fab Four would reach a deal with only one service or, as the band ultimately decided, all of them.

Swift has released a film of her latest tour exclusively on Apple Music while Tidal, led by rap mogul Jay Z, has heavily promoted unique content including the full catalogue of Prince.

Tidal and Rhapsody both said that they planned interactive features to go along with The Beatles' music.

Streaming has opened up a new source of revenue to a long-stagnant music industry, but critics say it is not enough to offset declining CD sales.

Revenue from streaming has overtaken that from downloads in 37 countries around the world, according to the IFPI recording industry body, with subscription revenues worth 23 percent of the overall digital market.