x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Liverpool, home of the Fab Four, finds all you need is love

The English home of the best-selling band ever has had more than its fair share of economic pain. But as International Beatles Week kicks off, the city now gets a multimillion pound boost from fans of the Fab Four each year.

The Beatles performing at New York's Shea Stadium in 1965. An expected 50,000 Beatles fans are expected to visit Liverpool to celebrate the annual International Beatles Week. AP Photo
The Beatles performing at New York's Shea Stadium in 1965. An expected 50,000 Beatles fans are expected to visit Liverpool to celebrate the annual International Beatles Week. AP Photo

After decades of industrial decline, the northern English city of Liverpool's cry of Help! is being heard as tourists flock to the home of The Beatles.

The recession-hit city's struggling economy now receives an infusion of hundreds of millions of pounds a year as a result of visitors drawn to Liverpool by the pull of the world's best-selling pop group, local government agencies estimate.

Beginning tomorrow, an expected 50,000 Beatles fans will Come Together in Liverpool to celebrate the annual International Beatles Week. Despite the fact the band has not played together since the end of the 1960s and two of its members, John Lennon and George Harrison, are dead, The Beatles' home town still attracts fans from regions all over the world.

According to Cavern City Tours, the company that has been organising International Beatles Week since 1986, the global reach of the internet is helping Liverpool attract interest from regions as far away as the Arabian Gulf states and beyond.

Indeed, to celebrate the band's 50th anniversary last year, the wonderfully named Duck Chowles brought his tribute act called The Fab Four to Dubai play sell-out concerts featuring The Beatles hits.

In addition, thousands took the chance to revel in Beatlemania when the luxury retailer Harvey Nichols celebrated the occasion by bringing a taste of Liverpool's award-winning Beatles Story attraction to the Emirate.

The Hidden Gallery, part of the travelling exhibition was unveiled in Harvey Nichols Dubai in Mall of the Emirates in May last year, featuring recently discovered photographs of The Beatles shot in 1963 and 1964. There was even special Beatles memorabilia on sale in a unique pop-up shop located on Level 2.

"The internet and social media has provided a huge boost to our profile and marketing over the past 10 years and has enabled us to reach out and contact the world's media, travel trade and travellers in a way we have never been able to do before," says Dave Jones, a director of Cavern City Tours, which also sells all kinds of Beatles memorabilia, ranging from key rings and T-shirts to jigsaw puzzles.

The Beatles' music is also being made available to a wider and more international public than even before through sales of digital music over the internet.

Following several legal battles with the US tech giant Apple, including a US$26.5 million settlement from the iPhone maker in 1991, Apple and Apple Corps, The Beatles-founded record label, announced a settlement of their trademark dispute in 2007, under which Apple took ownership of all of the trademarks related to "Apple" including Apple Corps logos.

In November 2010, Apple launched an extensive advertising campaign that announced the availability of The Beatles' entire catalogue on iTunes.

Apple iTunes has sold 2.8 million Beatles singles and 585,000 albums around the world since ending the legal struggle over ownership of the Apple Corps brand name, which began in 1978.

According to VisitBritain, part of the British Tourist Authority, Liverpool's local economy can rest assured Here Comes The Sun. The city is now the fifth-most visited in Britain by overseas travellers, attracting more than half a million visitors from abroad every year, many flying through the renamed Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

In keeping with The Beatles' ever-growing global fan base, Cavern City Tours, named after the sweaty 1960s Liverpool nightclub where The Beatles first made their name, is determined to make International Beatles Week truly international.

There will be 78 groups from 23 countries giving a total of 500 performances throughout the week. Many are tribute bands, which try to replicate The Beatles' long ago live performances in detail.

"Our market is global and the demographics are basically anyone from the age of five to 80 who enjoys British popular music of the last seventy years," says Mr Jones.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (Riaa), The Beatles are the best-selling band in the United States, with 177 million certified units.

They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act.

The statisticbrain.com website, citing Riaa, EMI and Apple Records as its source, says that as of April last year, the band had sold 2.3 billion albums worldwide.

"It is estimated over two million visitors a year come to Liverpool because of The Beatles. Our own operation trades 364 days a year," says Mr Jones.

According to the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the two million visitors drawn to the city by the fact that it spawned The Beatles spend about £400 million (Dh2.29 billion) a year while visiting. The city also has other draws for national and international visitors, including two world-class football clubs, Liverpool and Everton, as well as two internationally renowned horse racing courses, Aintree and Haydock Park.

Liverpool's overall revenue from all visitors is estimated to be well over £3bn a year. About 43,300 jobs in the Liverpool city region are supported by tourism expenditure.

Liverpudlians, as residents of the city are known, are well aware of the growing importance of the role of the "Fab Four" in putting their city on the 21 century world map.

According to a poll conducted by the LEP recently, the same number of Liverpudlians - 17 per cent - voted for The Beatles as voted for football as the city's biggest brands.

And it looks as if the new international brand of Beatlemania is set to grow following the acquisition of Beatles record label EMI by Universal Music Group (UMG).

UMG intends to exploit The Beatles brand to drive new revenue from merchandising The Beatles products alongside the music.

"All of us at Universal Music Group are very excited about extending our relationship with The Beatles' iconic brand to include both merchandise and their legendary recordings, and about the potential for innovative marketing of creative new products," says Lucian Grainge, the chairman and chief executive of UMG.

The largesse of the global army of fans of the four Mop Tops is not solely Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite.

The two remaining band members have also enjoyed a huge slice of the revenues the group generates.

In April, the UK's Sunday Times estimated Paul McCartney was worth some £680 million, although he has enjoyed significant success as a musician since The Beatles split.

Ringo Starr, meanwhile, has had a few jibes to contend with along the way.

At the height of the band's fame, a reporter posited the theory that perhaps he wasn't the best drummer in the world, to which a razor-tongued John Lennon replied: "Best in the world? He's not even the best in The Beatles."

Still, with an estimated £160m in the bank today, any hurt feelings must be Getting Better.

 

business@thenational.ae