It now seems oddly prescient that just last week I walked through the Beatles catalog, as today we find the meaning of the teaser announcement “Tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget.” The question is … do we care?
In terms of what is there, you can get all of the 12 original recordings, the 1973 collections ‘1962-1966’ and ‘1967-1970’, as well as the more recent ‘Past Masters Vol 1 & 2’. All are basically the same 2009 remasters I reviewed, in ‘high quality’ iTunes AAC format.
There is also a ‘complete collection’, which has everything except the 62-66/67-70 sets. Comparing the Complete iTunes ‘Box Set’ ($149.99) to the Amazon Box Set ($154.99), we find that iTunes has the enhanced ‘iTunes LP’ collections with better album art, and also has a full live 1964 concert added to the set. So if that is how you were thinking of going, iTunes has a better price with more content … but Amazon gives you the physical product.
But as I asked before – do we care? Two thoughts on this.
Why We DON’T Care
C’mon now, the Beatles have been gone since before 8-track tapes were popular, before everyone had a ‘handle’ on a CD radio, before you could make jokes about someone with an earache as ‘rejecting their bionic ear’, before Star Wars or Jaws or the Godfather … you get the picture!
The versions I reviewed, the ones on Amazon, have been out over a year and are currently viewed as the ‘definitive versions’ (save the debate over mono versus stereo for another day, please). There have been more than a couple of re-releases of the Beatles material over the last forty years, from repackaged albums to early CD releases through this most recent remastering. Millions of all of these have sold, while the direct impact of the Beatles on the younger generation of kids has waned (the indirect impact is still massive, and growing as those who tried to rebel by claiming ‘Beatles suck’ have been replaced by younger kids who realize the fallacy of that stance).
Suffice to say – anyone old enough to get really excited about the Beatles catalog on iTunes likely already has some of their music in one form or another, and also probably did what I did and manually imported CD’s into iTunes to play on their iPod. So while there will undoubtedly be loads of sales at first, in terms of some huge commercial release … it just doesn’t matter.
Why We Should Care
A few thoughts here:
- Recently Pink Floyd won a case wherein they claimed EMI broke a clause in their contract stating they “preserve the artistic integrity of the albums”, meaning no sale of individual tracks. Right now you can still get songs, but it seems like only a matter of time before that ends.
- I have written repeatedly about how the industry laments how the single track is once again king, and how they pine for the AOR days of the late 60’s through late 70’s and the CD era. The industry wants you to have to buy the full record, even if there are only two songs you want.
- Artists such as Prince have declared that the “internet’s completely over”, and refuse to hand over their music to iTunes or anyone else.
- Other artists have complained about digital music – some about piracy, some tilting against windmills, almost all older artists …
So we have the entire industry wanting to go back to the days before the acronym MP3 became a household name, when THEY controlled the distribution and you were stuck to just consume what you were told.
But in the mean time we’ve had iTunes, Slacker, Zune Pass, Spotify, and so on. Times have changed, consumption methods have changed – it is no longer just about whether or not you can buy a MP3 of a song you want. It is about finding music you will enjoy and consuming it in full and THEN deciding if it is something you want to add to your permanent collection.
So while the actual announcement is a pretty solid ‘meh’, symbolically it really DOES matter. It means that one of the strongest hold-outs of the old guard has finally caved in and allowed progress to catch up with the greatest pop band ever. And from here, we should see this music come to Amazon MP3, to streaming stations and subscription plans, and on and on.
For those looking to finally see full democratization of music, this is an important step. For those looking for something truly new from iTunes … move along, move along …