John & Paul & George & Ringo … & Steve?
Two long-awaited marriages were announced Tuesday: Prince William is to tie the knot with Kate Middleton but that surely pales next to the earth shattering news that — finally — you will be able to download the Beatles’ back catalog on iTunes. And that means the likes of an iTunes-specific box set, which contains all the Fab Four’s albums plus bonus content such as making-of footage, liner notes and Ringo Starr opening your mail for you whenever you feel like it. Probably.
Apple chief executive and Beatles fan Steve Jobs said it had “been a long and winding road to get here” (with puns like that, Jobs could write for NewsFeed. Fear not: our people are speaking to his people). “We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes,” he then said, missing a trick by not noting that, “we have come together.”
The living members of the Beatles echoed his enthusiasm. “It’s fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around,” said Sir Paul McCartney. Ringo Starr was slightly more sanguine: “I’m particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes.”
No surprises there then but what about dissenting voices? An analyst with research firm Forrester, Mark Mulligan blogged that, “The fact that securing the content of a band old enough to be most young music fans’ grandfathers is a sad reflection of the state of the digital music market,” adding, “The digital music market needs new music products, not yesteryear’s hits repackaged.”
Perhaps so but Apple, rather ironically for such a forward-looking company, does, at times, seem consumed with getting its house in order. Led Zeppelin was a famous hold out for many years but they eventually caved as did technophobes Metallica. But AC/DC (ask your parents), mid-period Prince (the artist formally known as successful) and latter-day Kid Rock (he’s way too scary to be snarky about) can’t be found on Jobs’s pride and joy.
Indeed, Tuesday’s announcement, if anything, makes Apple and Jobs less relevant. The takeaway must be that had this news occurred when iTunes launched back in 2003, both Apple and the Beatles would have benefited: the former would have had the best-loved band of all time in its opening day roster and said best-loved band of all time would have appeared savvy.