Just hours before the start of the new decade, a collection of rare Rolling Stones recordings from 1969 were posted to a suspicious YouTube account titled 69RSTRAX — only to be made private the following day.
The footage dump may be the work of ABKCO Music & Records, which administers the copyrights to the band’s 1960s catalog and was set to lose their hold on those copyrights in the European Union (EU) starting Jan. 1 — unless the company made the recordings publicly available prior to that date,
According to VARIETY Just hours before 2019 ended on Tuesday, at least 75 Rolling Stones outtakes dating from 1969 suddenly appeared on YouTube in an apparent move to officially release the recordings before they passed into public domain — and thus out of the ownership of the group and Abkco Music & Records, which administers its 1960s catalog. Link HERE
Even for YouTube, the presentation of these recordings is bootleg-level, with often-rough sound quality and some egregious typos — although the copyright line is typographically pristine. Worst of all, the rarest recordings — i.e. the ones not previously available on bootlegs — have a dial-tone-like sound as loud as the music, presumably to prevent them from being used as source material for illicit releases. Those songs are a truly miserable listening experience, even though many of them will be fascinating to fans whose ears can stand it.
Such releases have become common as the rock era has passed a succession of half-century anniversaries, and Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Motown Records and others have stealthily issued similar copyright-extending outtake collections for a brief time period (or in ridiculously limited-edition CDs with minimal packaging) before quickly yanking them off the market.
Owing to the intricacies of and updates to music copyright law and contracts across the globe, term durations vary widely, but 50 to 70 years is common for recent popular recordings — hence the release of albums like the Beatles’ “Bootleg Recordings 1963” and Dylan’s even more literally titled “Copyright Collections.” The recordings are usually sub-par and of interest only to deeply committed fans, and while the artist may not want them to be part of their official catalog, they also don’t want to lose the copyright and thus allow others to profit from their work.
Yet these Stones recordings — which appear under the title “69RSTRAX” — are apparently the first such collection released by the band. Reps for the group and Abkco did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment, but if it’s a hoax, it’s an elaborate one: The YouTube recordings all bear official copyright language and are available on the Stones and Abkco’s official channels, although the presentation and many of the recordings are bootleg quality or worse. They were not available on Spotify or other major streaming services at the time of this article’s publication; it is unclear how long they will be available.