Rolling Stones leave EMI for UMG

New deal covers new, catalog tunes

LONDON -- Ending months of speculation, the Rolling Stones have split with longtime label EMI and inked a new deal with the Universal Music Group. The pact covers not only future studio albums but the band's lucrative back catalog from 1971's "Sticky Fingers" onward.

EMI, which has endured a rocky transition to private equity ownership by Terra Firma in recent months, is understood to have lobbied heavily to convince the Stones to remain with the company.

New recordings will be released via UMG's Polydor label worldwide, putting the distribution of the entire Stones catalog under one roof for the first time. The deal covers both digital and physical distribution, with UMG already working on a long-term strategy to digitize the catalog.

The Stones tested the waters with Universal in April when they released the soundtrack to the Martin Scorsese documentary "Shine a Light" through the label. U.S. sales are at 106,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

After recording for Decca Records through 1970, the Stones formed their own Rolling Stones label for the release of "Sticky Fingers" the following year. The previous deal with Virgin/EMI dates to 1991, before Virgin's acquisition by EMI in 1992. Warner, EMI itself and Sony BMG (as CBS) had all handled the catalog between 1971 and 1990.

ABKCO and Decca are co-owners of the copyrights outside North America for the Stones' catalog from 1963-1970.

The Stones released three studio albums for Virgin: 1994's "Voodoo Lounge," 1997's "Bridges to Babylon" and 2005's "A Bigger Bang." The band is the latest high-profile act to leave EMI, after the likes of Paul McCartney and Radiohead.

An EMI statement wished the Stones "well in their new venture" and said the major was looking forward to "a continuing relationship with the band through our long-term publishing agreement."

"EMI Music will only ever conclude mutually beneficial agreements with its artists," the statement added.

Juliana Koranteng is a contributor to Billboard. (London)