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Tuesday 16 November 2010

The Beatles and iTunes.

According to rumours circulating. Later today, Apple (the computer people, not the record label) are expected to announce that they have done a deal with The Beatles and that iTunes will shortly be selling The Beatles music, in mp3 form.

This announcement has been a long time coming and has been held up by previous ongoing court hearings about the use of the Apple name. Those issues were sorted out some time ago and it was widely expected that an announcement about the selling of The Beatles music would swiftly follow.
But, obviously, this was not to be.

So Apple will finally be selling Apple.
The first thought that occured to me about this was, does anyone really care anymore?

Yes, this will cause a nice burst of publicity for both Apple and The Beatles and will, of course, help to make some more, little needed, cash for both of them. But, i suspect most people will just be thinking, "what kept you?".

The Beatles are one of the few bands that have, so far, refused permission for their music to be sold in mp3 form. One of the other notable examples are AC/DC.
It must be said that this stance has certainly not hindered either band. AC/DC are one of the biggest bands in the world and we are all aware of the position that The Beatles hold in the world of popular music.

So, why the change of heart?
Well, apart from the obvious chance to make more money by selling their songs individually, i don't really see the need for this change of stance. After all The Beatles are the most famous band that there ever was and ever likely to be.
Their music has sold, consistently, for over 40 years now and shows no signs of slowing down. The recent re-release of all The Beatles albums, in remastered and repackaged CD form, was a huge money and publicity spinner. I even re-bought several of the CD's myself.

Maybe, after that recent re-packaging of the CD's there was just nowhere else to go, but into the mp3 market?
The Anthology series, a few years ago, had cleared out the outtakes and different studio versions of the classics. "Free as a bird" being an example.
So, i guess that, as far as The Beatles music is concerned, the cupboard is now bare and this was the obvious next step to keep that money rolling in?

Now, i know that all of the above sounds a little cynical. But, i honestly don't begrudge anyone making money out of their music and especially when it's as good as the music of The Beatles. In fact, i think The Beatles have been pretty good with the way that they've released their music over the years.
The Anthology was done well, as were the recent CD re-releases. They were good quality products.
There are many other bands and artists who have certainly not treated their fans as well.

I just wonder if a band as well established and unique as The Beatles really needs to go down this route? Especially after refraining from doing so for so long now.
For any new band, the mp3 route is an absolute must do. But, for The Beatles?

From what i can see, it is Apple and not The Beatles that stand to gain the most out of this. Especially, if those Beatles mp3's can only be bought via iTunes. (I sure hope that The Beatles haven't agreed to that)

Maybe, my concern and general apathy about this expected announcement comes down to the fact that i already own all The Beatles music that i've ever likely to want?
And maybe, i'd just like to see some bands and their music, remain just that little bit more special?

By finally succuming to iTunes and the mp3, The Beatles will have changed and at a time when, in my opinion anyway, they didn't really need to.
But, maybe that's just me?


  1. I think you've said it yourself, it's just the next logical step for distribution. Yes, they did well with the CD re-releases, but the CD market as a whole is suffering from diminishing sales each year.

    What saddens me is that several of their albums should be experienced as such, an album. I know we've talked about this before, but it warrants repeating, the album is quickly becoming a thing of the past. New artists are selling a song at a time, and have no motive or opportunity to create that long form experience. Older band's albums just get chopped up and sold in pieces.

  2. I have just that topic, about whole albums, wrtten down for a future blog post.
    That is one of the things that disappoints me about The Beatles doing this. Yes, it's a way to sell more music. But, as you say, these are classic albums & deserve a full listen.

  3. Most people I hear talk about this seem to be saying It's a little too late. Most people that have an iPod already have all the Beatles songs on there one way or the other. Of course both companies will still make money but nowhere as much as they would have if they did this years ago.

  4. The only questions are "why not go down this road?" and "What took so damn long?"

    The fact is, the tracks are being distributed digitally (with no royalty paid) and played digitally (even, horrors, album tracks out of order!). Why shouldn't they capture a few pennies out of it and try to control that experience as best they can?

    Yes, as Marc says, some albums really need to be experienced as albums (not just for Beatles tracks, but for Pink Floyd, the Who, etc.), but that's never stopped FM radio from playing deep album tracks from any of these artists, or individuals from putting those tracks onto their mix-tapes or MP3 players.

    The "real fans" will purchase the CDs and play them as programmed. Others can now get just the tracks they know they love, and maybe that will lead them to, eventually, purchase the full CDs.

    As I said at the top of this comment, "What took so damn long?"

  5. Paul: That's pretty much what i feel as well.

  6. Ken: I know what you mean about radio stations playing those individual tracks. In fact, i've tried to stop Hastings Rock playing some of those tracks. For example,certain tracks from Dark Side Of The Moon, which seque into one another.
    I found out something interesting, since posting this. The Beatles songs start going out of copyright, at least here in the UK, from 2012. It will then be 50 years since Love Me Do came out!