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Beatles take bite out of Apple.

This article provokes a lot of thought.  It does look like the Fab Four are poised to launch a massive worldwide campaign to take over the pop music universe yet again, but there are so many questions left lingering.  Why?  Why hadn’t this happend a decade ago.  To me, The Beatles were all about a mixture of invention, creativity, and marketing.  I know this article mentions the coolness factor, and retaining credability, but what about creative invention?  We all know that the Fab Four would not be the force on the pop culture spectrum if it weren’t for these innovations, in songwriting craft, use of technology, and shrewd marketing. 

Why, then not embrace those three ideals and apply them to the digital download age.  I know it is a matter of protecting a legacy, but it makes you either appear lazy and uninterested, or completely archaic in your thinking.  I know this sentiment will change once The Beatles rule the digital charts and the downloads are finally available, but we think with every day that the downloads/remastered catalog is not available the “coolness” factor wears away that much more.  But again, that will all wash away once it finally does happen.

Yes, the BBC album, Anthology, and LOVE are “cool” projects (as the article mentions), but wouldn’t it be even cooler to hear albums on CD/download the way they were meant to be heard with a remastered back catalog, not to mention projecting an image that says I’m down with music in the digital age?  Once these babies are released, I agree, all hell will break loose.  The Beatles will be the toast of the entertainment world yet again.  It’s just a matter of getting there.  Patience my friends.

Here’s what we’ve read. 

The name is the most powerful in music and popular culture.

The Beatles were not just a Sixties sensation, they became a multi-million pound business empire.

Now 37 years after John, Paul, George and Ringo split, the music world is about to be reminded just who is the biggest kid on the block.

Record companies are in decline but The Beatles, represented by their corporation Apple Corps, are a sleeping giant who experts are predicting will rise again in 2007 and dominate the music industry. The two surviving band members and the estates of John and George could make hundreds of millions of pounds.

The imminent arrival of Beatles digital downloads – the last great bastion of undigitised music – is now cleared for take-off after a flurry of events that could finally see Apple open up to its full commercial potential after years of just saying ‘No’.

But the real story is a power struggle between Beatle credibility and crass commercialism which some key players believe will ruin The Beatles’ reputation and make the most influential group in history seem like any other band.

The industry is excited nevertheless. “The Beatles catalogue is the holy grail of the digital market,” says Genarro Castaldo, of music retailer HMV. “It’s the last great bastion of undigitised music.

“If it were finally available for download, it could set in motion a cultural shift, further cementing the enduring appeal and legacy of the Fab Four.

“It also underlines their continuing significance to the baby boomer generation and introduces them to a new and younger audience. I think this would mean as much, if not more, to the surviving members of the band as the huge revenues that are likely to be generated.

“To music fans it would be the final signal that digital downloads have truly come of age, while for record labels and retailers it could provide fuel to grow the digital market. It’ll also be a major media event, creating massive publicity for the band – not just in the UK but worldwide.”

The potential of this new Beatles activity is obvious. There are millions of pounds to be made, not least for the band’s record company EMI which announced yet more disastrous figures last week. A cash injection from The Beatles would set the share price rising again and allow the company to be sold, rather than be taken over.

Insiders say that Apple Computers – now most associated with iPods and music downloads – have considered buying EMI, Britain’s last independent major record company, but only if The Beatles went into the download market.
Now the way is clear, it is easy to see just how many parties stand to gain from the Beatles push. But will The Beatles? Neil Aspinall does not seem to think so.

Aspinall, the chief executive of Apple, is quitting the company after 40 years as keeper of The Beatles’ flame. The fifth Beatle, he has been head of the Corps since it started with the ethos of a hippy collective.

It quickly lost money and went bankrupt as the Beatles funded ever more outlandish ventures and allowed themselves to be taken advantage of by hangers-on.

But Aspinall, who went to the Liverpool Institute school with Paul McCartney and George Harrison and later acted as The Beatles’ road manager, turned all that around. He steadied the ship through The Beatles’ acrimonious 1970 break-up and remained friends with all four Beatles when they were not talking to each other.

But the speculation is that Aspinall hastened his retirement because he disapproved of the assault that the band is about to make on the world.

He has fiercely protected The Beatles’ integrity. Where other classic groups constantly reissue albums in different formats, the Fab Four drip-feed projects to the public.

In 1970, he immediately began collecting film footage and pictures, any evidence of The Beatles from around the world that the band had previously given out to anyone who wanted it. He turned them into the acclaimed Anthology project which included a popular TV series on the history of the band.

Aspinall never even allowed Beatles CDs to be discounted in the shops.

When I was unexpectedly introduced to Aspinall in Las Vegas after seeing the Cirque Du Soleil Beatles musical, Love, last year he frantically asked me my opinion.

My reply of “a triumph” was greeted with a loud sigh of relief and vigorous hand shaking. He was more nervous about the show’s impact than anyone else, anxious that his beloved Beatles should never have to compromise their integrity.

Apple under Aspinall was a notoriously secretive organisation, impervious to any and all inquiries. It never relented to the constant requests for Beatle branding on products and friends say that Aspinall would never be comfortable with the sort of activ­ity now planned.

Ironically, Aspinall has settled two court cases which paved the way for it – the long-running conflict with Apple Computers over the Apple name and a royalties dispute with EMI.

Apple Computers and EMI have also agreed to make the first DRM-free downloads available, downloads that can be played on any digital player, not just Apple’s iPod.

It means that the higher quality downloads the Beatles want to sell are now poss­ible because iTunes can sell them at a higher price than their regular batch. iTunes will saturate the world with Beatles advertising. There is talk of a green iPod pre-loaded with The Beatles catalogue, and branded mobile phones.

It could give The Beatles back their teen idol merchandising supremacy yet threaten their status as a cultural touchstone above profiteering.

“The Beatles At The BBC, the Anthology, the Love show – they were all Neil’s idea,” says one source close to Apple. “The difference was they were cool, that’s Neil’s thing.

“He’s not averse to making money, he’s just bored by the way they want to do it in a non-creative way. He’s an accountant by trade, he’s not some kind of purist Marxist.

“He did have a lot of disagreements with the Apple board, who are the representatives of The Beatles or of their widows. They’re lawyers, they care about The Beatles, but they’re not cool.

“Neil always thought it was very cool that the Beatles were the only band that you couldn’t download.”

The differences with his successor Jeff Jones are obvious. Jones, previously of SonyBMG, has been involved in the annual exploitation of the Elvis Presley catalogue. He knows how to sell a legend and his appointment is a significant indicator of things to come.

Those on the inside say he already has marketing and distribution deals to bring Brand Beatles to the world as never before. But Aspinall and the Beatles made sure that when Cirque Du Soleil wanted to do a Beatles show in Vegas, it was tastefully remixed by original producer George Martin and his son Giles. “We’re concerned about The Beatles’ legacy,” Giles told the Sunday Express at the time.

“Neil’s obviously hurt that it’s happened,” says one friend, “He’s probably made them between £300 and £400million. But it’s always been about being different, now they’re going to be like any other band. Neil never did the obvious.

“Everyone will say, ‘Well, The Beatles were the most over-promoted band in the world’. Yes, they were, between 1962 and 1969. But since then, Neil hasn’t put out constant remastered records. He’s done it really well.

“He’s put that into effect now because that’s what the board and The Beatles wanted, remastered music for the downloads. Paul is 65 in June, Ringo’s older, two are already dead, you could say, ‘does it matter?’ Well, Neil thinks so because it’s the legacy.”

Source: Sunday Express


5 Responses

  1. On this issue, I am clearly siding with Sir George Martin. For the most part, the later Beatles music was meant to listened to in an album format. Downloading individual songs takes a bite of of the crative apple without tasting the crust and breadth of the full Apple Pie. If they only offered the Beatles final six or seven albums as full albums only, I wouldn’t be so opposed to the inevitable downloading factor. Yes, there are some strong songs on those last albums, and yes, many of them are already listened to on an individual basis, but when I listen to the Beatles in my home or vehicle, I put on an album. We wouldn’t want just a few of the Bill of Rights without the rest would we? Well, most of us anyway.

  2. But why should those of us who just want to listen to specific tracks be punished because we don’t want to buy the entire album? Shouldn’t artists trust their audience?

  3. Remastering the cds is one thing maybe I’ll spring for the whole catalogue of beatle remasters-maybe,The Beatles are the holy grail for me musically–BUT if they really want my hard earned money then the remaining reunion song(s) and some sort of anthology 4 is the only way they are assured of getting it, sure a new generation of fans will make them big bucks downloading individual tracks but by about rubber soul the Beatles helped create the idea of a complete album rather than individual tracks things go in cycles the individual track may reign supreme for some years but eventually the artistry of a complete album will resurface possibly augmented by things no one has thought of, take the money sure —But I don’t need the downloads unless you give me the remaining music I have not heard the anthology was supposed to clear the decks give us the new and unreleased stuff but they withheld at least one maybe two reunion songs and good stuff like sour milk sea and some get back stuff and some demos like Bad to me give me that and the reunion and name your price give me another greatest hits I’ll possibly keep my money and mind you there is no one on the planet who loves beatle music more than me.

  4. I love the Beatles and may spring to have the 14 cd remastered collection if it sounds that much better. The downloads I don’t need but many young fans and fans of certain songs will net the Beatles a mint go for it Beatles! BUT if you want my money give me the remaining reunion song(s) and things in an anthology 4 that were left off demos like Bad To Me,the supposed Beatles take of Sour Milk Sea, the best of get back 30days-and especially Now And Then, whatever else the threetles recorded then you can gladly have my money and as I say I love the Beatles my musical Holy Grail however just another mashup or greatest hits come on give over the real stuff ! if you care about fans like me or my money,what have you got to lose? nothing

  5. it’r really simple..reissue the lps as they were recorded, not 1987 remixed, in decent mono masters (with the original stereo for interest only, until abbey road), with the past masters as catchups of the singles and odd stuff.

    job done.

    (ps i will then become the obsessive with the neverending get back sessions, the strawberry fields demos, the live recordings, etc, etc but that’s my problem!)

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