Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beatles and iTunes, in perspective

I don't think I've ever pulled a comment from a previous post and displayed in on the front page, but this one was simply too interesting to pass up. It's from, I assume, Bob Hallett with Great Big Sea. Bob's been reading the blog for awhile and pops up from time to time with insights and occasional corrections into my thoughts on music. I found this one, on why the Beatles finally released their catalogue to iTunes yesterday particularly interesting.

The Beatles thing could also be seen as an admission of label failure; keep in mind that they have not avoided iTunes as some Luddite effort to avoid technology.

More, the Beatles' camp did not want to make the huge revenue sacrifice that iTunes forces upon artists and labels. Vis - a band like the Beatles would have made approximately $3.50 a CD. And consumers had to buy a CD to get a given song.

Now fans will just buy the songs; iTunes pays its artists in the neighbourhood of .07 cents a song. A desire on the part of a fan for a copy of a given song, say 'She Loves You', would have previously netted the band $3.50, as the consumer was forced to buy a CD. Now they will make a nickel.

This move is actually a recognition on the band and label's part that everyone who would possibly buy a Beatles' album already has, and that the only sales left are of the shitty low revenue iTunes variety.

That's one of the most intelligent insights into the issue I've read over the past few days. Most have been snarky and making fun of Apple and the Beatles for the tardiness of the announcement. I did too, and if I had been more awake last night, I would have seen the very obviously flaw in the argument.

That flaw? Rock Band: The Beatles.

If they were Luddites who didn't trust the technology, they never would have gotten involved with a project like that. And they got involved relatively early as those games don't exactly take a few weeks to create. Instead, they produced what some would argue is the pinnacle of the Rock Band/Guitar Hero series of games. Those kind of games have apparently taken a big hit in popularity this year, and I wonder if it's not because A. They're over saturated and B. It doesn't get much more fun for many people than playing along with The Beatles. So they got in just in time.

Plus, they've always been pretty protective, and pretty smart, about how they use their catalogue. So if they finally thing they've milked the CDs for all they're worth, then I can see taking the plunge into iTunes.

Now, you can make the argument how much did they lose to torrent downloading over the past decade by not having their music online,, but I'm sure an accountant somewhere has done a cost analysis report on the pros and cons of keeping their music unavailable digitally. Especially since Beatles fans tend to be older and less likely to be using something like torrent.

Anyway, thanks for that, Bob. I appreciate the extra insight.

Last Five
1. Breakdown (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers*
2. Happiness - Goldfrapp
3. Clubland - Elvis Costello
4. Line of best fit - Death Cab For Cutie
5. Happy home - Garbage


Dups said...

I believe there is another reason for the release to iTunes. Yes EMI is in trouble, Yes they want to make money and are admitting (and I agree) the failure of labels...

Have you looked at the date recently? Yup 2010. 1962, was almost 50 years ago. Under most copyright law, the Beatles become public domain very very soon, especially as in the UK copyright law (and they really tried to change this recently) could not be changed.

If EMI had not released this to iTunes, in 2 years, She Loves You is going to be released really cheap.. Free as in Free Beer :)

The whole Rock Band thing, iTunes, all this is important to realize revenue before the entire catalog becomes... well... "worthless"

Dups said...

Hmmm On second research, feel free to delete that comment of mine :D Turns out I guess they did extend the copyright law last year while I wasn't looking. Damn them :D

It is now 70 years because of literally now called "The Beatles Act" by the EU. UK opposed it, EU tried to go for 95 years and backed down to 70. It does mean, Beatles etc. have to make money over the next 20 years. I'm sure the moves were started when they thought that it might not be the case (the law pass in late 2009).

Okay. Back to your regularly schedule Townie...

Dups said...

Oh and for sure Rock Band was created when they thought copyright was going to be gone. Do remember that sales of Rock Band The Beatles would have continued to net EMI money due to the nature of its new formatting and presentation!

Okay 3 comments on this... I need a life. Gone.