Do you want to know a secret?

by Nik Rawlinson on December 9, 2010

Nik Rawlinson

The Beatles on iTunes. Is it such a big deal? Actually, it is. Now, I’m no Beatles fan, as anyone on the MacUser team will tell you. I’ve never understood the fascination, never enjoyed classics such as Hey Jude and We Can Work It Out, never really comprehended why anyone is still going on (and on and on) about them 50 years after they formed and 40 years after they called it a day. The Beatles leave me cold.

That’s a good thing. The world would be a boring place if we all liked the self-same things, so I’m happy to admit I may be a minority. I’ll also cheer along with everyone else, not because I’m set to splash out on The Blue Album, but because of what it means for Apple.

The Beatles were never the only absentees where iTunes was concerned. As Matthew Sparkes points out in his column in news (see MacUser, 3 December 2010, p12), there have long been notable gaps in the A and D sections of iTunes’ catalogue where AC/DC and Def Leppard should have been filed. These gaps, though, have never been so thoroughly discussed, nor so brightly highlighted as The Beatles-shaped hole that’s stood empty since the iTunes Store threw open its digital doors in 2003.

The seven years that have passed since then, and culminated as we were putting together this issue, comprised the most impressive and effective marketing push ever for any band’s back catalogue, all of it entirely passive. At every step there has been real resistance to Apple’s plans. Every battle and setback was reported in nauseating detail, commentators commented, analysts analysed and all of them made a healthy living from quotes and soundbites until – finally – the war was over. The peace was signed and The Beatles had come to iTunes.

ONLY to iTunes.

That’s the important factor. The two remaining Beatles and their business representatives will doubtless claim otherwise, but the band’s presence on just one store is little short of an endorsement. The Beatles brand is at least as big as that of iTunes itself, and it can’t fail to drive ever more customers in Apple’s direction. It could even prove a fillip for the iPod, too, as the most compatible player of The Beatles’ back catalogue.

In that respect, The Beatles’ music itself is largely symbolic and little more than a marker that proves once and for all (for the moment at least) that the iTunes Store is the most complete online source for music downloads. Nobody else can offer so comprehensive a range – not even Amazon, where an MP3 search for The Beatles turns up 787 albums. I’ll let you work out for yourself how many of them are original Beatles studio recordings.

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  • Quercus

    C’mon Nik!

    Like you, I am no fan of the Beatles, nor of Pop(ular music) in general, more of an Underground Rock person myself, but there were some pretty amazing tracks in their psychedelic era, and those that George Harrison had a big hand in.

  • CharlyLucas

    I too am underwhelmed by the Beatles on iTunes announcement. I am a Beatles fan (maybe it helps to have been there) and I’ve had their tunes in my iTunes from day 1, before there was an iTunes Store. I just ripped all my CDs. I agree that the announcement has more to do with marketing hype than music.

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