Key Pink Floyd albums drop from digital market

Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:24pm EDT
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By Ed Christman

NEW YORK (Billboard) - If you're looking to buy the classic Pink Floyd albums "The Wall" or "Animals" as digital downloads, you're out of luck.

Those albums as well as other post-"Dark Side of the Moon" titles like "Wish You Were Here" and "The Final Cut" -- all originally released on Columbia Records but distributed by EMI since 2000 -- have been pulled from digital retailers like iTunes and Amazon's MP3 store because EMI's contract covering those albums expired June 30.

The albums are still available on CD because EMI has stock that it can sell off. But industry sources say that it likely won't be able to manufacture more physical copies of those albums until a new contract is signed. Pink Floyd's earlier albums -- from "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" through "Dark Side of the Moon" -- are still available on CD and as digital downloads on EMI.

Label sources say that Pink Floyd's management was shopping the band's entire catalog for a licensing deal about 18 months ago, asking each major to explain how it would market the band's catalog and to make a bid. Sources at the major labels say elaborate presentations were unveiled for the band's management, but the bidding levels got too high for some of the majors.

An EMI spokeswoman declined to comment, and managers for various members of the band couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

EMI has suffered big-name defections like Radiohead and Paul McCartney since U.K. private equity firm Terra Firma purchased the major label group in 2007, saddling it with onerous debt service terms that it has struggled to meet.

EMI's talks with Pink Floyd could prove to be a key test of whether superstar artists still have faith in the label's ability to market their music. But label sources say they doubt that Pink Floyd's asking price will fly, even though the band remains one of the best selling of the Nielsen SoundScan era.

Since 1991, Pink Floyd albums have sold 36.2 million copies in the United States, including 654,000 in 2009 and almost 311,000 this year. Pink Floyd track sales total 6.5 million, and so far this year song downloads stand at 587,000 units.   Continued...