LONDON // The Beatles – with a little help from their friends at EMI –- have finally made it on to iTunes.
More than seven years after people first started downloading music on their pocket players and 40 years after the band itself split up, Apple Inc let it be known yesterday that the world’s largest music retailer and the world’s biggest selling band had finally come together.
But it has proved a long and winding road to reach an agreement. For years, Apple Corps, the band's management company, and Apple computers were locked in a bitter trademark dispute that was only finally resolved in 2007.
Since then, Paul McCartney – who, with Ringo Starr, is all that is left of the group – has suggested that the delay in getting an iTunes deal with Apple was down to EMI, the UK record company that owns the rights to all but the group’s very earliest recordings.
“There have been all sorts of reasons why they don’t want to do it,” Sir Paul told the BBC earlier this year. “To tell you the truth, I don’t actually understand how it’s got so crazy.
“I know iTunes would like to do it, so one day it’s going to happen.”
That day turned out to be yesterday. The news, though, still came as a surprise as Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow, had said as recently as August that she did not expect any deal to be done soon.
A report in the Wall Street Journal said that talks between Apple, the Beatles and EMI took place as recently as last week, heralding “a watershed in a fraught, decades-long relationship between two of the biggest icons in their respective fields”.
The absence of The Beatles’ recordings from iTunes, which commands about 90 per cent of the online music business, has been a huge gap in its catalogue. In fact, when iTunes launched in 2003, it was predicted that the absence of the Fab Four would be fatal.
It did not turn out that way and iTunes flourished even without the Beatles, though the CDs of their iconic albums, such as Sgt Pepper, Revolver and the White Album, have shown no signs of letting up, either.
Last year, 39 years after the group broke up, they sold 3.3 million albums in the US, the third-highest of any act, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Shortly after 6.30pm UAE time yesterday, the first tracks from The Beatles were made available for sale. The Beatles’ 13 original studio albums were priced at US$12.99 (Dh47.7) each, with individual songs costing $1.29 (Dh4.7)- the same as the highest-price tier for best-selling tracks from other artists.
Additionally, iTunes is selling three compilation discs for $19.99 each while the entire catalogues, including a film of the band’s first concert, “Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964”, which is available for $149.
Some acts, such as AC/DC, are still holding out against iTunes, primarily because they do not agree with making individual songs available as downloads. Some albums, they feel, need to be heard in their entirety.
Paul and Ringo, and the estates of George and John, have finally overcome such qualms, and will end up even richer as a result.