3/11/08
6:21 am

The Obsession with the Beatles on iTunes

So yet another rumor this week that the Beatles catalog will finally be available in downloadable format, on iTunes. But it seems to be another false rumor. There seems to have been hundreds of such stories since the launch of iTunes, and yet still no Beatles. Meanwhile, other bands go online without so much as a mention.
So, why the obsession with the Beatles?
Well, there are many reasons. When the Beatles released their music, vinyl records were the format. So it was a major shift when compact discs came out. It only took a few years for the Beatles catalog to be remastered and released on CD, and that event really marked the arrival of CDs and the death of vinyl. So I guess some people think it will finally mark the moment where downloads will be the major distribution method.
Another reason for the hype is the history between Apple and Apple Corps. The later is the company that owns and controls the Beatles recordings. In the 80s, they sued Apple over the trademark of Apple. They settled as long as Apple (then Apple Computer) agreed not to enter the music business. But with the iPod and iTunes, it certainly seemed to Apple Corps that Apple Computer was in the music business. So another lawsuit, and another settlement.
Then, of course, there is the simple popularity of the Beatles and their songs. They have 200+ songs, of which about 150+ can be heard on classic rock or oldies stations at any time. From She Loves You to Let It Be, from Yesterday to Hey Jude, from Love Me Do to Revolution. They have so many recognizable songs, that it must be the most valuable catalog from any one single band.
But there are many reasons not to care whether the Beatles are on iTunes. First, all of their music has been digitally remastered and on CD for decades. So, there is no lack of availability. I won’t be buying any Beatles downloads, as I already have all the CDs. Are there really that many people out there that want Beatles music, but are waiting for slightly-lower-quality compressed files?
Second, Apple Corps will probably opt for heavy DRM (digital rights management). So it would be available on iTunes, but as protected files. I’d love to be wrong about this. Releasing the Beatles catalog DRM-free would surely be another nail in the coffin of DRM.
In the end it still would be nice to have the Beatles up there on iTunes, maybe just to see some of the youngest generation discovering their music through an iTunes wander.