The Rolling Stones have left their record label EMI to sign an "exclusive, long-term, worldwide" contract with Universal, it has been confirmed.

The new deal sees Universal given control of the rock veterans' future albums as well as their back catalogue.

"Universal are forward thinking, creative and hands-on music people," a band statement said on Friday.

"We really look forward to working with them."

The Observer newspaper had claimed in June that the Stones were close to leaving EMI for concert promoters Live Nation, who recently signed deals with Madonna and Jay-Z.

However, the band's spokesman Bernard Doherty denied plans to sever ties with EMI after 31 years.

Having lost Radiohead and Sir Paul McCartney in 2007, losing the Rolling Stones sees a further turn for the worse in EMI's fortunes, a path which has seemed difficult to avoid since the label was taken over by private equity firm Terra Firma.

Some 2,000 EMI employees lost their jobs in January and only the sterling performance of Coldplay's new album Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends - which has sold more than 300,000 copies - has steered the label in the right direction.

A Universal statement on signing the Stones said the band were "seminal musicians who have set the bar for all rock bands in their paths".

Chief executive Doug Morris added: "There is no question that the Rolling Stones are one of the most important bands in music history.

"Their musical style and off-stage swagger have been emulated by countless others."

Universal Music Group International chairman and chief executive Lucian Grainge commented: "The Rolling Stones go their own way – always have, always will.

"Everyone at Universal Music feels privileged to be part of the journey."

Speaking to Music Week, an EMI spokesperson said the label wished the band well and "looks forward to a continuing relationship with the band through our long-term publishing agreement".


25/07/2008 16:37:39