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The Beatles on iTunes? Yawn.

By Rob Pegoraro

The Beatles, their surviving heirs and their misguided management finally turned in their Flat Earth Society membership cards today, allowing the sale of their music as digital downloads on Apple's iTunes Store. La-dee-freakin'-da.

I'm sorry, were you expecting congratulations here?

itunes_beatles.png

This absurdly-overdue development happened a few minutes before 10 a.m. -- slightly in advance of the vague prediction posted on Apple's home page yesterday.

Apple now offers all 13 remastered Beatles studio albums and the three major post-breakup compilations as multimedia-enhanced "iTunes LP" downloads, plus a $149 "box set" that includes all those releases, digital liner notes and a video of the band's 1964 concert at the Washington Coliseum. Individual songs cost $1.29 each, while single albums sell for $12.99 each and double releases cost $19.99.

Apple's press release only cites that concert film as an exclusive. But the Fab Four's work doesn't show up on Amazon's MP3 store, Apple's main rival in the digital-download business. You can, however, continue to buy their CDs off the Seattle retailer's site--in some cases, for $3 to $5 less than what Apple charges.

That seems a fitting conclusion to the Fab Four's history of digital denial.

It's been almost seven years and seven months since the iTunes Store opened for business as the iTunes Music Store. The Beatles would have looked like visionaries to join Apple in this venture, and I'm sure Apple chief executive Steve Jobs would have given every black turtleneck he owns to have them. But they held back.

It's been three and a half years since Apple announced that it would stop requiring "digital rights management" restrictions on iTunes downloads. The Beatles would have been hailed as pioneers for bringing their music to the Internet without DRM shackles. But they stayed aloof.

Just a year and a half ago, Apple banished DRM entirely from the iTunes Store's music inventory. But the Beatles chose that very day to announce they'd be digitally remastering their catalogue for yet another re-release on CD.

Today, the Beatles have finally run out of excuses for not letting downloaders give them their money. Alas, seven years is a long time to cede the market to file sharers and CD swappers who readily provided something that they would not. Is there anybody left online who doesn't already have all the Beatles MP3s they want?

Furthermore, the Beatles' tiresome we're-too-good-for-the-Internet act might have helped encourage the equally foolish conduct of lesser musicians who have also boycotted the download market.

So spare the celebrations or commemorations over a talented band's belated recognition of reality. That doesn't mean the Beatles aren't great artists; it does, however, make them terrible capitalists.

(7:44 p.m. Added Steve Jobs' title and first name to correct an obvious oversight that people somehow forgot to call me out on.)

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 16, 2010; 10:07 AM ET
Categories:  Music  
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Comments

I'd bought all the Beatles CD's by the early 90's, and ripped them to MP3 by the mid-90's.

Posted by: wiredog | November 16, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"...they'd be digitally remastering their catalogue for yet another re-release on CD."

You make it sound like they reissued their catalogue on CD several times but it was only twice: 1987 and 2009, a span of 22 years. Maybe it seems like just yesterday since the band has never left pop culture consciousness. Many other artists have had their wares reissued more than twice, most notoriously Elvis Costello.

Posted by: beetsnotbeats | November 16, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

To give some credit to the Beatles - the new remasters from 2009 sound excellent, definitely better than the CDs released in the '80s.

In fact - Amazon is now selling both the stereo box set and the mono box set for $130 apiece. I'd much rather pay $20 less and get the physical CDs, thank you very much.

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | November 16, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The Beatles' history of being lousy capitalists goes back to the beginning of world wide Beatlemania. Their manager, Brian Epstein, squandered many ways to capitalize on their world wide success, the most mind boggling being his giving a company called Seltaeb 80% of marketing revenues in America.
The fact that the four Beatle estates are all extremely wealthy is a testament to their music's unstoppable brilliance.

Posted by: cjbass55 | November 16, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

THIS is the big announcement? I was hoping it would be the long awaited Itunes cloud. But the Beatles available for download? I bought the physical CDs from Amazon and downloaded them so I am disappointed/underwhelmed that this was the big announcement for today.

Posted by: lkop56 | November 16, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I think you're looking at this rather narrowly. The Beatles have been rather ingenious in protecting their legacy all these years. That publicity and celebration of this move -- that you refer to so derisively -- will help them bring in new young fans. Would teens have noticed if the Beatles were available for download 6 or 7 years ago? As the only holdouts, they'll get attention and bring in the younger folk. They really couldn't care less about adults who swap c.d.'s. They want to reel in those kids introduced to the Beatles through Guitar Hero. (And, as a side note, Apple records had sued Apple for trademark infringement. It took a while to bury the hatchet.)

Posted by: mbmuse | November 16, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Major letdown, Apple. I was hoping for a leaner, easier iTunes. Instead I find that those luddite Beatles are finally getting into the download market...over a decade since I first downloaded Yellow Submarine in MP3 format using Scour Media Agent.

Posted by: mcs37 | November 16, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Look - I really do like a lot of The Beatles music, but with that said this reeks of OVER-HYPED music being attached to the VERY OVER-RATED Apple brand for a marriage made in Steve Job's bank account to fund more production on over-priced, homogenized iCrap.

Posted by: RandellG | November 16, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Yea, the Beatles were stupid. I wonder how they've gotten so rich, and are respected by several generations. My !grandkids! like them.

I never liked my parent's music (excluding extremely good jazz from that era). Like, man, when are Laurence Welk and Jackie Gleason going to release their bundled works lolol.

Posted by: johng1 | November 16, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The band's legacy is being mismanaged.

The Beatles were not the narrow-segment, high premium band of their day. They were the massive, market-share, category killing band that would be more akin to Microsoft Windows than Apple.

The skim strategy used by the band's surviving members, assorted heirs, and various over-compensated sychophants is blunting their cultural impact.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 16, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

lousy capitalists??! i guess the fact that paul mcartney is probably the richest musician in the world proves that point,....naaaaht!

Posted by: BRIANSWARTZ | November 16, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Rob...if you don't like the Beatles, just say I Don't Like the Beatles. And then go away.

Every Party
Has a Pooper
That's why we
Invited You...
Party Pooooper....

Posted by: CapnPequod | November 16, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

So do the Apple download products sound as good as the 2009 RE-remastered overpriced CDs, or are they the typical narrower-bandwidth iTunes variety? Keeping in mind that those tracks were all recorded nearly half a century ago anyway...

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | November 16, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Why is everyone forgetting what was at the core of this dispute (pun intended)? The name of the Beatles' company was Apple Corps. Part of the agreement for letting Apple Computers go by that name was that Apple would never get into the music business. By creating iTunes, they violated that.

Posted by: priscillahopkins | November 16, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

if you are a musician, itunes is a rip off.

Posted by: rockstone | November 17, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey Rob, who pi$$ed in your Corn Flakes this morning? Are you really that jaded?

IMHO, this is great news! A bit late, but better late than never. Yes, true fans already have their music in various forms (including me), but this opens up their music to a whole new generation of fans who purchase their music online, and also allows for purchasing single tracks.

I was ten years old when I sat in front of the TV and watched The Beatles on Ed Sullivan... it completely changed my life. Now, a new generation can experience the music that changed the world. I don't know why anyone would be against that unless they just see the glass half-empty all the time.

Posted by: HerschelR | November 17, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

I came across an online community for individual seeking interracial love. It is - Black White Hub. c O m--- All singles there are seeking interracial relationships. Interracial is not a problem here, but a great merit to cherish!

Posted by: abulaw | November 17, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

I understand your cynicism, Rob. But I think the fact that several Beatles albums immediately shot into the iTunes top 10 answers your question: "Is there anybody left online who doesn't already have all the Beatles MP3s they want?" Apparently, yes, there was.

Posted by: Janine1 | November 17, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Since some people have suggested otherwise in this thread--yes, I like the Beatles. My introduction to them as a kid was watching The Yellow Submarine on TV with my parents, and "Here Comes the Sun" was one of the first songs I remember liking on the radio. That said, I think the White Album (like most double albums) has its share of filler, and I haven't been particularly tempted to buy the reissue of Sgt. Pepper.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | November 17, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Rob,
I couldn't agree with you more! Beatles: a real yawn. So has been.

Posted by: hrb3 | November 19, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

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