derryX Rant: Why The Beatles on iTunes is a major event…

First: No Glue Factory today

Second: Download music by The Beatles on iTunes

This past Monday, Apple promised a major announcement on Tuesday. On Tuesday, they unveiled that The Beatles catalog would be available for download on iTunes. This past week has been nightmare-ish at work, but I sat back and read a lot of the backlash of this announcement on Twitter. I got to read things like “What a joke of an announcement,” “The Beatles are awful,” “This announcement was way too small for such hype,” etc.

While it is not my duty to defend Apple, I would like to provide a bit of background and insight into this “event,” and bring forth the opposite opinion: why The Beatles on iTunes is a major event.

I recall back in 2001, Apple took a risk of creating an online store to purchase music. Nobody thought it would be effective because people could illegally download whatever they want due to existance of file sharing networks like Napster and Lime Wire. This caused the record industry to spiral out of control because sales of physical media were plummeting. Many saw the iTunes store as a cushion for some of this loss. The mentality was that people could spend just a buck per song that they want and pretty much do whatever they want with it within the umbrella of iTunes.

People actually used iTunes to purchase music, so other comepting markets became available. Napster launched a legit market, so did Walmart, and many others. The problem with the competition was there was little variety between networks; record labels such as Apple Corps (the publisher of The Beatles catalog, not to be confused with Apple Inc) were refusing to license their music to iTunes or other online retailers. The choice to where purchase music became a matter of convenience and price, so Apple/iTunes, which by this point had introudced their iPod line of portable music devices, remained the most popular online music store.

Popularity of iTunes due to continual innovation of the iPod led to expansion of the iTunes model toward movies and television shows, but looking back at music, companies were still holding out on digital licensing. In 2010, the lack of ability to download music by bands like The Beatles, who are arguably the most popular and influential band of all time, is a major deficiency in the digital distribution business. For this reason alone, the ability to download from The Beatles catalog is huge news. Not to mention the fact that other holdouts will probably follow suit now that this barrier has been breached.

Many people reacted to the announcement as, “ok, whatever” and, to most people, the announcement does not affect day-to-day life. Lets face it: the people who are major fans of The Beatles already have access to digital files from the ability to rip from CD’s, especially after the 2009 CD re-release of the entire catalog remastered in stereo, and the people who hate The Beatles will not even think to download their music. What both ends of this spectrum is missing is that the majority of music purchased is done on impulse. So let’s say a kid likes Guns N Roses and downloads a song called “Live and Let Die” from Use Your Illusion I, iTunes can potentially say “Since you liked that, you should try ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles.” And lets say the kid is open-minded and throws down the cash for that song, and likes it. That kid is more likely to revisit the iTunes store and purchase even more music.

As a matter of fact, as of yesterday, songs from The Beatles catalog have taken over more than 25% of the top 200 download spots on iTunes. If that’s not proof that Tuesday’s announcement was major, I don’t know what is. Of course this level of popularity will not last, but it is nice to see that a band that has been broken up for forty years can generate a buzz greater than any current band.

For my library, which contains the whole stereo catalog of The Beatles, Apple’s new Ping social tool can be a lot more useful. Same thing goes for the Genius feature in iTunes.

And I’m not even going to get started on the people who said things like “The Beatles are awful.” I used to be one of those people, and, after listening to the entire catalog chronologically, I regret most of the negative things I said…


19 thoughts on “derryX Rant: Why The Beatles on iTunes is a major event…

  • kriskaten

    growing up, my mom only listened to oldies. but never the beatles. oooh, how she hated the beatles. elvis? that was her true love. of course, to rebel, i listened to the beatles non-stop. now, i hardly ever find myself in the mood for them, and instead, i love elvis. wtf has happened to me, i’m turning into my mother. *sigh*

  • Kicknknit

    I, for one, was THRILLED! because I used to have a lot of the catalog on vinyl. (yes vinyl- my dad’s old records, which were in rough shape, but oh such a joy to listen to!) I have a few albums on cassette (what can I say, I’ve been a fan since I was a teen and I’m rapidly approaching 38.. so 25 years of fandom.. at least) and have a few on CD.

    I have been contemplating buying the whole catalog on CD, but I really don’t have the room.. and as a technogeek, I was just waiting waiting waiting for this moment.

    Now, of course, because I’m stingy, I’m waiting for the hype to wear off to see if the price drops.

    But oh how I miss The White Album. It was one of the casualties of moving and relinquishing the vinyl to it’s proper owner.

  • Bill

    1. The Beatles were a fantastic band for their time. Music has since progressed, but you can’t deny they paved the way for many more great bands and new sounds.

    2. Apple screwed the pooch on the “big announcement” for one main reason: The general public is accustomed to music being available for sale, and doesn’t usually think about licensing gotchas when looking to buy music. They just want to buy it and assume people will have it in whatever form they want to buy it in.

    That Apple was able to negotiate a deal to bring the very highly restricted Beatles catalog to iTunes was a HUGE win, but only those savvy in music licensing and Beatles fanatics would truly appreciate that win. Everyone else would (rightfully, from a public mind point of view) and have reacted either with “meh” or with “that’s it?”.

    We have many expectations built on experience with regard to music. We have grown accustomed to being able to pick up music in pretty much any format we need it in. Hell, Pearl Jam simultaneously released Backspacer on vinyl, CD, MP3, and Rock Band.

    Because a general expectation was set (over time) that music (generically) is available, both at your local store and on iTunes, the announcement of a collection being available on iTunes – no matter how proprietary a collection it may be – simply is no big news to anyone outside of the industry or its ring of fans.

    • derryX

      When i think back to 2001, when they said “The Beatles music will never be able to be downloaded on iTunes,” I see how major the announcement is. And i did hit the point that the news is lackluster for fans and haters.

      If I were apple, and I could create a buzz by saying anything, I would have done the same exact thing.

      • Bill

        Oh, without a doubt. Whether the reaction is good or bad doesn’t matter. Apple created a buzz, and since the arguments unfolding have nothing to do with iTunes as a service, it’s just creating more interest in/acceptance of using iTunes as your de facto online music store.

        I guess my only hangup is that Apple has built a history of major announcements (new products and services), which of course stirs the Apple Fanboy Nation into a frenzy of anticipation about a potential new major offering. That the announcement was, to be very generic here, “new music is available”, was lackluster at best.

        Whatever the case, I really don’t see the big deal either way. Yes, I think it was a huge win for Apple, but in the end, it’s merely added more options to an established, expected vanue.

        • derryX

          I totally appreciate the point you make, but taking it one step further, the fact that iTunes now offers songs by The Beatles makes it a more complete service than other competitors who do not.

          I’m not really sure if any company could make an announcement that would rattle the world for everybody.

  • GenWar

    Were the Beatles fine human beings? yes.
    Did the Beatles pave the way for future music? sure.
    Does the Beatles being on iTunes open doors for new and more realistic ways for digital music to be distributed? unquestionably.

    However, none of this changes the fact that the Beatles music sucks. It is, with like 3 notable exceptions, unpleasant to listen to.

    I consider myself pretty open minded when it comes to music. I listen to and enjoy a wide variety of stuff. And, for the most part, I can enjoy almost all forms of music. But I just don’t see how people can like the Beatles. Even contextually (‘for their time’) there was so much better stuff.

    I’m #justsayin’

    • derryX

      I used to feel the same exact way, but after listening to everything they recorded and released, and realizing some of the songs they are responsibe for (which I had no idea), I slowly became converted into a fan. And while much of the early stuff is rooted in pop cliches and by many is considered tough to listen to, their mid and late stuff has much more depth and gives their contemporaries a good run for their money musically.

      But it’s definitely a “to each their own” thing when it comes to peoples’ taste of the beatles.

  • Darth

    Everyone thinks The Beatles are the best band ever. Does anyone other than myself realize they were the “boy band” of the 1960’s? They were the New Kids on the Block, The Backstreet Boys, the N’Sync of the time. Sure – they played instruments and rock music as opposed to dancing around like fairies and pop music, but that was what was popular at the time.

    The Beatles were pop music in reality, and nothing more than a way to exploit the wet vagina’s of thousands of streaming teenage girls.

    Real rock music in the 60’s included Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix, etc.

    Many I just listed are multiple times better musicians that The Beatles. They might not have sold as many albums, but that is because their purpose was the music – not the teenage wet vaginas.

    So now, 50-60 years later, you have all those kids and teenagers who grew up on the Beatles and raised their kids on the Beatles saying “OMG they’re on iTunes!”

    John Lennon was nothing more than an assassinated Justin Timberlake of his time.

  • Chastophers

    Great Post, I enjoyed it so much I had to retort. Thanks to derryX for letting me Blog Battle him –

    • derryX

      For some reason, my work computer is not showing a comment box on your blog. I’ll get to make more specific comments on your posts hopefully later tonight.

      Really good points in yours. Especially looking at sales of tracks vs sales of albums and albums as a whole work.

      While I plucked a few concepts out of fanfare and public reaction, the main argument of mine is that iTunes (with this acquisition/announcement) is now miles ahead of other online music providers who can’t offer the Beatles in their library.

      Ohh and Aerosmith…blech…


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