Tag Archives | The Beatles

Can’t Buy Me So Many Other Things

Apple’s home page is saying that the company is going to make an announcement that we’ll never forget. It involves iTunes and will occur at 7am Technologizer time. I hate to make Apple predictions, but I’m not above agreeing with ones made by others, and the idea that this might involve the release at long last, of the Beatles in digital form sounds plausible. In fact, the Wall Street Journal says the deal is done.

Assuming that the news does involve the Fab Four, it’s going to be a relief to never, ever have to write about their absence from the the iTunes Store and legal digital music in general again. (Here’s a ten-year-old PC World column that makes reference to me being ticked off about the subject.) As every rational person who’s ever written about the topic has said, this was a non-problem: Digital Beatles is already on untold computers, music players, phones, and other devices, in ripped form.

So with all the time we’ll save not seething about this, can we devote some energy to being upset about content that isn’t currently available in legal recorded form, period? The Rutles’ wonderful album Archaeology springs to mind. So do three of my favorite movie comedies of the 1960s and 1970s: The Wrong Box, Movie Movie, and Cold Turkey. It’s never been the least bit difficult to listen to the Beatles here, there, and everywhere, but much of our culture is still locked up in studio vaults…


Beatles on iTunes? Yoko Says No Go

Reuters’ Dean Goodman snagged an interview with Yoko Ono in which she says that the Beatles aren’t likely to show up on iTunes any time soon:

“(Apple CEO) Steve Jobs has his own idea and he’s a brilliant guy,” Ono, the 77-year-old widow of John Lennon, told Reuters. “There’s just an element that we’re not very happy about, as people. We are holding out.

“Don’t hold your breath … for anything,” she said with a laugh.

If the main issue is Steve Jobs being stubborn about some unspecified negotiating points, shouldn’t Jeff Bezos rush in, buckle under, and give Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and George Harrison’s widow Olivia basically anything they want to get the Beatles catalog on Amazon MP3? Wouldn’t that be the best publicity Amazon ever got? Wouldn’t it sidestep having to do things Steve Jobs’ way? Wouldn’t there be a chance that Apple would respond by figuring out a way to make the Beatles folks happy?

And isn’t it increasingly bizarre that we’re this far into the digital music revolution and there’s no way to legally acquire the music of the greatest rock group of them all?

Back in November, I predicted that the Beatles would be available for download within 18 months. I thought that Sir Paul’s declaration at the time that it might not happen was canny hype for a release that was already in the works. Now I’m not so sure. The big question now: Will the Beatles be downloadable before the last CD store in the world closes, or after?


The Beatles on iTunes: No News is Bad News

When will the Beatles finally be available on iTunes, or anywhere else you can legally download music or stream it on demand? I’m beginning to think it’ll be when I’m 64–which gives the multiple parties involved in this saga until 2028 to get their respective acts together. Or at least this MG Siegler story at TechCrunch, covering recent comments by Sir Paul and EMI, provides no particular reason to expect any good news any time soon.


The Beatles and (an) Apple: Together at Last!

Beatles iPodThis is…odd. The Beatles are finally releasing their remastered catalog in digital form–both high-quality FLAC files and 320-Kbps MP3s. But they’re not selling it on iTunes or any other online music merchant. They’re releasing it as a limited edition of 30,000 16GB USB drives that fit into an “exquisitely crafted” commemorative apple.

The box set includes fourteen albums, fourteen short documentaries, cover art, and expanded liner notes, and will go for $280. That’s more than the recent CD release, and more than you’ll pay when this stuff does become available for online purchase. (Most of the Rolling Stones’ albums go for eight bucks a piece as downloads.)

The ordering page for the apple doesn’t  say anything about whether it’s easy to get the music onto an iPod or other device. I hope it at least doesn’t do anything to make it difficult

Why the unorthodox means of going digital? I can think of a few reasons.

The lads are used to commanding a premium price for their music, which is tough online. (Sticking it on a USB drive lets them hawk it as a limited edition, but every digital download is, by definition, an unlimited edition.)

Their business model as a corporate entity essentially consists of selling their fans the same music over and over–for more than forty years now! The limited-edition apple gives ’em the ability to do it at least one more time before it goes online. I’m already suspicious that some sort of non-limited edition USB version is on its way.

Not being available for download has become a Beatles trademark. The apple lets them go digital while keeping the tradition alive. And the longer they string out the saga, the bigger a deal it’ll be when they do go online.

A couple of predictions:

The Beatles’ music will be available from the major download stores within eighteen months–and maybe a lot sooner than that.

Tragically, the fabled Apple press event in which Steve Jobs’ ‘one more thing” is the Beatles and Paul McCartney and/or Ringo Starr take the stage to make music won’t ever happen. One day, the music will just be there, and we’ll eventually forget it hadn’t been all along.

So would you spend $280 for USBeatles?

USB Beatles


The Problem With Musicians and Music Games

kurt-cobainWith The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5 released earlier this month, several musicians have spoken their minds about music games. And I wish they hadn’t.

To recap: Last week, singer Courtney Love decided to sue Activision when she realized how her late husband, ex-Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, was being used in Guitar Hero 5. When letting Activision use Cobain’s likeness, Love didn’t realize that in-game characters can perform in any song, resulting in a rather troubling video of Cobain rapping and singing 80s metal. The rest of Nirvana then added their disapproval, and so did, of all people, Bon Jovi.

Earlier, former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason expressed their disdain for music games, based on the tired belief that these games kill the motivation to learn a real instrument (Mason said he was open to a game based on Pink Floyd, simply to make money).

Topping it all off, Paul McCartney admitted that he hadn’t yet played The Beatles: Rock Band. His rationale? The former Beatle can play an actual concert any time he wants.

McCartney’s dismissal, however justified, is disheartening, and I’m saying that as a fellow musician. Having played guitar and drums since childhood, I initially pooh-poohed Guitar Hero as well. But then I tried it, with people who aren’t musicians, and everything clicked.

What Guitar Hero offers musicians is the ability to enjoy music with everyone, not just for the words and beat, but for the musicality and the intricacies that become most apparent when you’re performing. It’s too bad McCartney, Mason and Wyman can’t see that.

Courtney Love’s case is a bit different, but the underlying issue, that she obviously hasn’t spent time with the game, is the same. Instead of experiencing why Guitar Hero and Rock Band are special, these musicians only see two potential rewards: relevance and money. Ideally, music should be about neither.


The Beatles (Not) For Sale. Again!

The Long and Winding RoadIt looks all but certain that the longest-running soap opera in digital music will run at least a little longer. The obligatory annual rumors that Apple was about to announce the availability of the Beatles on the iTunes Store have given way to disappointing sound bites from some pretty knowledgeable sources.

Sir Paul McCartney told NME, not very convincingly, that the appearance tomorrow of the Beatles version of the Rock Band game is a satisfactory alternative to Beatles downloads:

We’ve kind of bypassed that [download problems] because now you can do it in ‘Rock Band’,” he said. “I always liked that, when you’re told you can’t do something and suddenly there’s a little route round the back.

Meanwhile EMI’s global catalog president told the Financial Times that the company wants to make the Fab Four’s music available for download–eventually:

“Conversations between Apple and EMI are ongoing and we look forward to the day when we can make the music available digitally. But it’s not tomorrow,” Ernesto Schmitt, EMI’s global catalog  president, told the FT’s Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

(In this case, I’m assuming that “not tomorrow” means both “not September 9th, 2009” and “not in the immediate future.”)

The word of Sir Paul and EMI isn’t enough for you? MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka seems to have found a third source with bad news:

The Beatles estate, Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Viacom’s (VIA) MTV will be releasing a new version of “Rock Band” that features the band’s songs tomorrow. And on the same day, EMI Music Group will release all of the band’s music on remastered compact discs.

But that’s it, a source familiar with the band’s plans tells me. For now.

As Kafka says, the theory that Apple would coordinate its announcement with tomorrow’s other Beatles news always seemed a tad unlikely: Why would it want to promote Rock Band, a game that doesn’t run on Apple hardware?

I’m not going to entirely discount the possibility of a surprise tomorrow until the event (which I’ll be liveblogging) ends and Paul McCartney hasn’t emerged from behind the curtain. I’m not sure why I care, since I long ago ripped the music I wanted from CD. Like most Beatles fans who have gone digital. Perhaps the band and EMI wants us to buy the music one last time on CD in these new remastered versions before it gives us the chance to purchase it yet again in downloadable form.

This whole saga is as old as the iTunes Store: It began with the news that the Beatles were suing Apple over iTunes and the lads’ Apple Corps trademark, segued into musings on whether digital Beatles were in the offing after the spat was settled, and in recent years has involved repeated rumors that a deal had already been struck and was about to be announced. After the jump, a recap of the last six years of developments.

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