Beatles’ download press release explained.

It looks like the Wippit file downloading service press release that went out two weeks ago that pronounced the advent of Beatle downloads was simply an accident.  I guess we all jumped the gun a little in the hopes that the downloads that were available were finally THE remasters.  

While exciting still, these downloads were news video clips.

The Beatles, once cutting edge and innovative, are still yet to cross that digital divide.  It is with these baby steps that we will see them redefine digital downloading in my opinion.  When The Fab Four finally decide to do something, they do it in a big way.  We’ll have to wait and see, but for now I’m going to go and download some of those news clips. 

Here’s what we’ve read. 

Even when pressed, Paul Myers will not lay claim to teasing the public about the Beatles on the Internet.

“It was purely accidental,” he said with a laugh when asked about the phantom press release posted this month on his London-based digital music Web site with the headline, “The Beatles available for download on Wippit.”

Problem was, the full text of the press release – dated March 14 even though it was posted on March 9 – was not to be found under the headline.

The mystery got a mild bump in attention across the blogosphere and generated a news story on BBC.com. No surprise: The Beatles are among the last Top 10 bands, along with Led Zeppelin and Radiohead, that have not licensed their songs for sale digitally to outfits like Wippit and iTunes.

And when Apple (the computer company) settled its long-running trademark dispute last month with Apple (the Beatles’ old record label), both analysts and ordinary fans speculated that a digital deal could at last be struck. So Wippit’s press release was at least plausible.

In the end – that is, on March 14, the date of the press release – Wippit disclosed that it was offering collections of video clips of the Beatles for sale by download or as part of its subscription service. And even then, Wippit did not secure the rights for North American sales, so downloads from the United States are prohibited.

Myers, who founded Wippit seven years ago, before the age of the iPod, has no regrets about his incomplete, if not downright misleading, publicity lure. For a company that signs its press e-mails with the Oscar Wilde quotation, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” the stunt was not completely out of the blue.

Whether you see Myers as a marketing maestro or madman, he is still a pioneer in the digital music market. Wippit – named for the dog, not the Devo song “Whip It” – started as a peer-to-peer music site that, unlike its peers of the day, paid musicians and record labels royalty fees.

Today, Wippit is a subscription and download service that costs £50 per year or 29 pence per download. At various times, it has been the second-ranked digital music store in Britain, behind iTunes and ahead of Napster and eMusic, Myers said. While more than 50 percent of its business is in Britain, North America accounts for a good 17 percent; it also does business in continental Europe.

Myers believes digital music stores will not be able to compete on price or music catalogue for long because the differences among them just won’t be that big.

Instead, they will need draws like old Beatles’ videos or, as with a separate Wippit offering, unique services like converting tunes into cellphone ring tones, he said.

Another Wippit hallmark is that it offers half of its music selections for purchase in the unrestricted MP3 format, which can be played on virtually any digital music device, including the iPod.

Wippit subscribers choose MP3 over the alternative – the WMA format from Microsoft that is more difficult to copy on other media – by a ratio of four to one, Myers said, proving that something as techie as format can be a sales draw.

At the same time, he predicted, government noises, especially in Europe, about forcing music hardware and software to be compatible across brands will pressure the major record labels to free their digital sales from copying constraints and other digital rights management.

“They’ve got to look at the numbers and say, ‘We want to sell more – forget about protecting the catalogue,’ ” Myers said. He expects at least one of the labels to make that move before the end of the year.

In the meantime, Wippit’s Beatles release got worldwide attention, Myers said with relish.

And the British press is still speculating that EMI is on the verge of releasing The Beatles’ back catalogue as digital downloads.

But don’t hold your breath: EMI surely knows a thing or two about manipulating publicity to its advantage, too.

Source: International Herald Tribune

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One Response

  1. London 19th April 2007 – Wippit, the London based digital download pioneer is adding to the rare Beatles catalogue of interviews and news reportage with a rare and sought after news documentary from 1966 and not aired in complete form since then.

    The twenty-three minute film ‘The Beatles Across America’ aired only once by ITN follows The Beatles progress and particularly concentrates on the controversy that dogged the maligned US tour of 1966 following the interview given by John Lennon five months earlier where he is said to have claimed The Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus Christ’.
    Lennon is seen defending himself and making something of an apology, but the fascinating rarities that will thrill music fans and historians are the one on one interviews with the man who first brought the issue to the attention of American Christians, DJ Tommy Charles from radio station WAQI in Birmingham, Alabama and the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Shelton who when challenged if it was their views on civil rights and colour that really irked him most claimed that due to their ‘mopheads’ he couldn’t even identify if they were ‘white or black’.

    Wippit is offering the video download of ‘The Beatles Across America’ to all territories except North America for £4.99 from wippit.com/The_Beatles.

    Full Press Release here: http://www.wippit.com/More_Beatles_Downloads_Beatles_across_america.htm

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