This morning the Beatles and Apple announced, rather quietly, that the band was officially on the iTunes roster of artists, joining millions of others with their thirteen albums.
In a statement to the press this morning, Apple chief Steve Jobs said, "We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes. It has been a long and winding road to get here," he added with standard punnery.
It's undoubtedly great thing that the Fab Four will now be available next to iTunes chart-toppers like the Glee kids, Kesha and the Black Eyed Peas, adding a firm of base of rock history to the sites already rich catalog of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and The Who, closing the circle for younger ones needing a lesson in classic sounds.
Most Beatles albums are going for $12.99, while the double albums like The Beatles (the White Album) run $19.99. The individual tracks are some of the most expensive on the site at $1.29 a pop. You can get all the Beatles tracks in a digital box set for $149 if you are feeling fancy.
Sadly, the albums that flesh out the Beatles story, the Anthology series from the mid-'90s, are not yet available. Those discs were where you can hear ideas being formed that would soon become rock landmarks.
Also, you cannot buy and download any of the band's films like A Hard Day's Night or Yellow Submarine. The former stands alone, aside from the obvious attraction of the band and it's music, as a funny, well-scripted slice of celebrity life in the early '60s. As for Submarine, it's kid-friendly and dope-friendly.
But are the Beatles too late to the digital-music party?
Yes people are still using iTunes and other online music outlets to get their music, television, and movies, but now after five or six years of teasing on both sides of the aisle by the band and Apple, does the addition of the boys really come off as a huge earth-shaking turn of events.
It was a year and change ago that the band re-released all of those same thirteen albums newly-remastered and cleaned with new packaging. In the span of time since then, everyone who bought those albums legally have long ago ripped them to their computers or iTunes for listening on the go.
Why not release all this stuff last September with Beatles: Rock Band, to make a bigger splash? From a media standpoint, that would be monumental.
That's not even counting the thieves amongst us who illegally downloaded these albums years ago. If you go to a torrent site you can find a variety of versions of these albums, from studio outtakes and alternate mixes to every nerdtastic permutation you can imagine.
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In the end, one of the charms of the Beatles is holding a physical copy of their work. A vinyl copy of Rubber Soul, your old worn-out cassette of Sgt. Pepper, that scratched Abbey Road disc. Having an iTunes locker full of files is not the same.
Sure this is a great thing that people who may have never heard the band have it at their fingertips, but like a friend of ours noted online, how much money do the band, their descendants, Michael Jackson's estate, and Apple need at this point? Yoko isn't the one at fault this time.
With the power and influence of the band's music and the clout and cash that the creators and their families still have, you would think at least by now this stuff would all be free as a bird online. See what we did there?