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The Beatles On iTunes: 'Let It Be'

Tom Dotan |
November 16, 2010 | 7:06 a.m. PST

Associate News Editor

Creative Commons image
Creative Commons image
The long and winding road that has been The Beatles' place in the digital music revolution has finally led to Apple’s door.

Seven years after launching iTunes and its online music store, the Cupertino-based company announced Tuesday morning that they and The Beatles, the most commercially successful music group of all time, have come together to make the band’s catalogue available for download.

Seventeen albums are available for download, costing $12.99 each, and individual songs on sale for $1.29 each.

The move is seen as the final missing piece in Apple’s considerable online collection of legally downloadable music. While other artists such as Madonna and Metallica initially declined to add their collection to iTunes—only to relent later—few important artists have held out for so long and quite so publicly as the lads from Liverpool.

The dissonance between the two likely stemmed from their names.

When Apple Computer first trademarked their company in 1978, they had to contend with a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Apple Corps, The Beatles'-owned record label. As legend goes, part of the settlement was that Apple Computer could never enter the music business—hardly a great sacrifice for the fledging company, then most interested in popularizing a boxy, 8-bit microcomputer.

But in 2003, Apple unveiled the iTunes music store, which featured millions of legally downloadable songs that could go right onto an iPod. They instantly became major players in the music world, and old wounds with The Beatles flared up.

A drawn-out legal battle between Apple Computer and EMI (the label that controls The Beatles' catalog) prevented any progress on the incorporation of Beatles music to the iTunes store. In 2006, a British judge ruled that the electronics company was not infringing on the 1970s settlement.

It is difficult to imagine Apple benefitting too much monetarily from this new addition of old music.  The Beatles’ songs and albums have existed in a digital format since the early 1990s, and iTunes users have always been free to upload CDs into their digital library.

Furthermore, song downloads themselves has never been a huge cash flow for Apple, which in the past few years has oriented the iTunes program as a conduit between their mobile devices (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad) and personal computers.

Getting hold the group’s prodigious catalogue is simply the completion of unfinished business for Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, himself a very public Beatles fanatic.

Despite all the problems these two entities have had, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney sang so many years ago, “we can work it out.”

And so they did.

Reach associate news editor Tom Dotan here.



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