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Off the Beat News

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

It appears that Apple is in negotiations with several in-flight entertainment companies to offer music downloading on airplanes. Offering iTunes in flight makes a lot of sense. Travelers, stuck in their seats for hours at a time could download their favorite songs on demand, 30,000 feet above ground.

In other Apple-related news, Coinstar, the vending machine built for exchanging loose change into foldable currency, is now offering iTunes music store gift cards. Take your loose change to any Coinstar vending machine, found in many supermarkets, and pick up a gift certificate for your favorite digital downloads.

But its doubtful you'll ever be able to buy the Beatles catalog with that coin. Neil Aspinall, the long time tour manager and now managing director of the Beatles' record label, Apple Corps, announced last week that the band and the estate were working on re-mastered versions of the Fab Four catalog online.

The Beatles have remained the biggest hold-out in the digital downloading race to the future, refusing to license their tracks to any online retailer. Since Mr. Aspinall made the announcement during his testimony in the trial against Apple Computers for their copyright infringement, it's hard to believe you'll find the Beatles on iTunes anytime soon.

But you will be able to hear the Dave Matthews Band. Dave Matthews was the first artist to successfully market his CDs on the Internet, owing in large measure to his huge online fan base. After years of refusing to play ball, he has finally agreed to position his entire catalog on the iTunes music store. The move comes with a sizeable concession for iTunes, namely unbundling the albums for individual track downloads.

In related Apple news, the technological giant has joined up with the toy manufacturer Fisher-Price and is taking aim at the 3 and under set with the imminent launch of their new iTod. According to the London Times, the iTod is a digital music player built for youngsters with tiny volume-restricted headphones.

The Apple store will sell parentally approved songs for kids, and the player will initially come loaded with six songs and two spoken word stories. Toddlers unable to read will rely on icons to symbolize each song.

It seems that the music industry is not the only industry taking a serious hit in declining sales. According to the Times, 2005 was the fifth year in a row with little or no growth in American toy sales market. Toy makers are banking on digital toys to help them out of this slump.

And speaking of toys, there have been Beatles dolls, KISS dolls, Eminem and even Britney Spears dolls. But are we really ready for the release of the Kurt Cobain action figure? The man who brought generations of punks, metal heads, rockers, and grunge fanatics together has finally, posthumously, received his own action-figure likeness. The doll is based on his appearance in the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and includes his guitar, and part of the gymnasium floor as his base. Note to parents: Not suitable for toddlers.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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