The Beatles USB: The Beatles Stereo Remasters in MP3 & FLAC
he Beatles USB is the "digital debut" for The Beatles legendary music. It is the very first release of their classic songs in the mp3 format which has become the main way many people listen to music now. Along with the high quality mp3s, this "Apple" themed USB flash drive also features 24bit FLAC files which are of more interest to those who are serious about sound quality.
For a very long time now there have been rumors that The Beatles classic catalog would be made available for download on sites such as the iTunes Store and the Amazon MP3 Store. Most folks assumed that they were waiting for the remasters but when the new remasters were released on September 9, 2009 they were only released on CD with no digital downloads available.
Then came the news that The Beatles stereo remasters (but not the mono mixes) would be made available digitally except not how everyone assumed they would be made available. Instead their entire 1960s catalog was going to be included in mp3 and FLAC on a USB flash drive. I was pretty shocked by this (as I think most Beatles fans were.) I don't think anyone really even considered the idea that they would release their music digitally on USB instead of as digital downloads.
Perhaps it's because they couldn't come to an agreement with iTunes? For those of you who don't know, the company that The Beatles formed in 1968 was called Apple. Later there was a computer company formed that also used the name Apple. Lawsuits ensued and the two companies have been in legal battles of some kind or another for much of the last 30 years. It's partly because of this that Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cannot be downloaded on iTunes as of 2009!
Or perhaps it's just a marketing thing. Maybe they're planning on making some cash with this USB deal and then later releasing them as downloads so they can get some people to buy them both times. Sneaky? Well at this point I think that's kind of what I would expect. They want to get every last penny they can, don't they?
Or maybe the reason is more artistic in nature (doubtful, but let's consider it anyway.) Maybe they don't like the idea of The Beatles songs being available to download one by one in the less than stellar quality that iTunes sells their songs in. Maybe they prefer the idea of keeping their albums together and available only in the highest quality (320kbps) mp3s and the better than CD quality 24bit FLAC formats that are includes on the USB memory stick.
While The Beatles USB essentially contains all of the same elements as stereo box set (audio, video, liner notes and photographs) it does not include the mono mixes from the mono box set. If you want to hear those original mono mixes, you must purchase that box set because they are not available in any other format and I wouldn't be surprised if that remains the case in the future (they now consider the stereo versions to be the principle versions of the catalog.)