Stones ink Universal soundtrack deal


LONDON -- The Rolling Stones have signed a one-album deal with Universal Music as they approach the end of their current contract with EMI, which is understood to expire this year.

The band's worldwide deal with Universal is just for the soundtrack album to "Shine a Light," the live performance movie directed by Martin Scorsese. The album is due for release in March in physical and digital formats; the U.K. label will be Polydor.

"We are really proud to be working with The Rolling Stones and so is everybody in Universal Music globally," said UMG International chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge.

The "Shine a Light" movie, due for international release in cinemas in April, was shot at New York's Beacon Theatre in the fall 2006, when the band performed with special guests Buddy Guy, White Stripes' Jack White and Christine Aguilera. The film also features rare archive footage.

EMI declined to comment on why they are not releasing the album, but a spokeswoman told Billboard that EMI/Virgin continues to have a relationship with the band. EMI declined to comment on when the deal expires.

However, it raises the question of whether EMI/Virgin will continue to release the band's post-1971 catalog and future releases once their current agreement ends, which Billboard understands will be in the spring.

At present, the band owns its entire Rolling Stones Records catalog from "Sticky Fingers" (1971) onwards. The current deal with Virgin/EMI dates back to 1991, prior to Virgin's acquisition by EMI in 1992. Warner, EMI itself and Sony BMG (as CBS) had all previously handled the catalog between 1971 and 1990.

Universal Music already has the 1963-1970 Rolling Stones catalog, originally released on Decca in the U.K. and London Records in the U.S. "The band are looking forward to working with Universal Music and are excited about this new venture," said a Stones spokesman in a statement.

Following the departure of EMI artists Radiohead and Paul McCartney, it would be a major loss to the company if the Stones also quit, taking with them a catalog that includes 14 studio albums.

Some speculate the band may sign with Live Nation's new Artist Nation entity. Such a move would extend their longtime relationship with promoter Michael Cohl, who serves as the head of Artist Nation.