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Rolling Stones sign Universal album deal

Veteran British rock band the Rolling Stones has signed an exclusive worldwide recording agreement to release its next album through Universal Music Group, prompting speculation that it could leave EMI. EMI has been hit by a wave of bad news in recent weeks, with key artists threatening to walk away from the company after its new owner, financier Guy Hands and his private equity group Terra Firma, unveiled plans to cut up to 2,000 jobs.

A statement released by the band on Thursday said it had signed a one-album deal for the group’s next release which is due in March — the soundtrack for a film by Martin Scorsese called Shine A Light.

A spokesman for EMI said the agreement only covered one album but an industry source told Reuters that the EMI and Rolling Stones deal was due to expire shortly and said the group was considering its options.

The Shine A Light soundtrack will receive a physical and digital release across Universal Music’s labels around the world.

Shine A Light draws on footage from two Stones concerts at the Beacon Theatre in New York in late 2006, which included guest appearances by Jack White of the White Stripes, Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy.

The movie also features rare archive scenes and more recent behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.

The Rolling Stones, one of the biggest bands in rock’n’roll history with album sales estimated at more than 200 million, embarked on a two-year world tour in 2005 which ended in London last August.

EMI said on Tuesday it would cut a third of its staff and many artists after it struggled in recent years with a poor release schedule, Internet piracy and the move to digital sales.

Universal is a unit of Vivendi.