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The Beatles Come to iTunes (Finally!)

Over seven years after the inception of the iTunes Store, Apple has at long last negotiated a deal to bring The Beatles to the online music store. The iTunes Store now contains 17 of The Beatles’ albums, including the 13 original studio albums and the $149 Box Set (presumably without the box). You can also watch a number of The Beatles videos, related Apple TV ads, and 41-minute video of “The Beatles: Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964.”

It’s difficult to get too worked up about the inclusion of The Beatles in the iTunes Store. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Beatles fan, but it strikes me that most people who want to listen to The Beatles have already purchased CDs of their favorite albums long ago—it’s not as though there’s a huge pent-up demand for Beatles music that couldn’t be met without them appearing in the iTunes Store. I’m sure the music will sell well to young people only peripherally familiar with The Beatles, and to older folks
replacing worn-out LPs and cassettes, especially with Apple’s promotion, but it’s not really going to change the world.

In the early days of the iTunes Store, the lack of The Beatles was more obvious and more concerning for the future of online music sales, since it was a glaring omission from an up-and-coming store. It was a bit like walking into a grocery store only to be told that it didn’t yet carry milk. But even without The Beatles, Apple turned the iTunes Store into a huge success over the last seven years, so now it’s merely nice to get those virtual shelves more fully stocked with the music we expect to see.

And thankfully, the rampant speculation can now come to an end.

[Update: Ah, the power of promotion. Despite my naysaying when the announcement was first made two weeks ago, Billboard quotes industry sources as saying that iTunes sold more than 450,000 Beatles albums worldwide in the first week, 119,000 of which were in the United States. In comparison, U.S. sales of Beatles albums have averaged 23,000 per week in the past year. There is some funny accounting going on due to the 13-album box set being accounted for as multiple albums in the worldwide numbers, but as a single album in the U.S. sales. Single track sales reportedly exceeded 2 million worldwide and 1.4 million in the United States.
While you’re on the Billboard site, be sure to read “Beatles On iTunes: The Story Behind the Deal,” which gives some sense of the wrangling necessary to put the deal together, including Apple paying a substantial advance to get exclusive online rights for a limited time. Now that explains the marketing push!]

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