Beatles Catalog Finally Coming to iTunes, Apple Announces
by Antony Bruno, Denver
November 16, 2010 10:25 EST
he Beatles' catalog is now available on iTunes.
As expected, Apple today (Nov. 16) announced the addition of music from the Beatles a day after posting a cryptic message on its website promising that today will be "just another day. That you'll never forget."
The content includes all 13 remastered studio albums, all in the iTunes LP format, at $12.99 for individual albums and $19.99 for double albums and anthologies. There's also a $150 downloadable digital box set that includes the entire catalog, a mini-documentary on each album, and a video of the complete 1964 concert at Washington Coliseum.
All Beatles tracks are also available as singles, for $1.29.
"We're really excited to bring the Beatles' music to iTunes," said Paul McCartney in a statement. "It's fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around."
Added Ringo Starr, "I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes. At last, if you want it -- you can get it now -- The Beatles from Liverpool to now!"
The addition is a major coup for Apple, as the Beatles until now have not allowed their music to be sold in digital formats or made available on streaming services while still remaining one of the top catalog selling acts of all time.
According to Nielsen Soundscan, the Beatles have sole 61.4 million albums since the group started tracking retail sales in 1991. They've sold 1 million albums already this year and sold 3.3 million last year buoyed by the September reissue of their entire catalog.
The question now is whether those figures will hold up now that fans can buy each song individually. It seems unlikely that the iTunes move will have too much of an impact on album sales. Even though the Beatles have not been available on legitimate digital music services, their catalog is widely available on P2P. Anybody seeking just one single here or there would have had no problem getting it before now. Coming to iTunes just means the Beatles will now get paid for it.
While the addition of the Beatles is certainly big news for Apple, it's not yet clear how big a deal it will be for the Beatles. Anyone who's wanted the Beatles on their iPod to date has already done so, either by ripping the songs from their purchased CDs or simply downloaded them from P2P services. The box set is a nice touch for collectors, but the main push must focus on the next generation of fans who are still discovering or will discover the Beatles music going forward.
To that end, Apple is supporting the addition of the group's catalog with a big promotional push from Apple. In addition to the website splash page, the Beatles have pretty much taken over the iTunes store home page, which lists not only every album available, but also several videos including a highlights reel of the band's career, a free stream of the Washington Coliseum concert, and several 30-second ads.
The commercials are aimed to position the news as the digital equivalent of the Fab Four's American "invasion" most notably popularized by their legendary performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The five ads feature a black and white photo montage of them recording and performing together with the text: "The band that changed everything. Now on iTunes." Each features a different song: "I Wanna Hold You Hand," "All You Need is Love," "Let It Be," "Yesterday," and "Here Comes the Sun."
The Beatles at least for now seem to have granted iTunes exclusive access to the catalog. It's not clear whether their music will appear on other digital retailers soon. The Beatles were by far the most notable digital holdout. Others still outstanding include Garth Brooks, AC/DC, Kid Rock and Tool.
Artists keep their music from iTunes for one of two reasons. Either on principle that albums should be sold in their entirety rather than broken into single songs, or because they want more money per track than is typically given. With the Beatles, it was probably a little of both, but there were other complications.
Apple and the Beatles were ensnarled in a legal battle over the "Apple" trademark, which was also held by the group's Apple Corps holding company. Apple was allowed to keep the name under an agreement that it not get into the music business. The launch of iTunes set off a fresh round of litigation that was finally settled in 2007.
But it still took three years to bring the Beatles' music to the world's largest music retailer. There were signs of progress throughout, with each of the band members' solo catalog gradually being added. But as recently as this August, questions persisted over whether the Beatles would ever make the leap, given the complex web of rights ownership and the legacy concerns of the surviving members of the band and their relatives.
The question now is, did the Beatles wait too long? They could have made a far bigger bang had they made the digital leap last year timed around the Sept. 9 catalog reissue and introduction of The Beatles: Rock Band. What's more, digital sales are starting to flatten out, as interest turns to streaming services.