IW 50 Best: Meet The Beatles on Apple's iTunes

Nov. 21, 2010
Group's songs finally available on music site.

It remains to be seen whether the availability of Beatles songs on iTunes will spark another wave of Beatlemania, but Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs seems optimistic about the potential.

"Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realizing a dream we've had since we launched iTunes 10 years ago," said Jobs in a statement.

Apple began offering the group's albums and individual songs Nov. 16. Single albums are available for purchase and download for $12.99, double albums for $19.99 and individual songs for $1.29.

Also available on iTunes will be a special digital "Beatles Box Set" featuring the "Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964" concert film, Apple said.

The availability of Beatles songs on iTunes represents the end of a long-standing battle between Apple and Beatles record label Apple Corps. The record company filed a lawsuit in 1978 for trademark infringement. The two firms settled in 1981 with Apple Inc. agreeing not to enter the music business and Apple Corps saying it would not venture into computers.

Several more disputes ensued over the years with Apple Inc.'s sale of Musical Digital Interface-enabled products and the advent of iTunes.

In 2007 Apple Inc. announced that the two companies had reached a final settlement. Under the agreement Apple Inc. would own all of the trademarks related to "Apple" and would license some of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use. The parties did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

The iTunes Store generated revenues of more than $1 billion in the fourth quarter, according to an earnings transcript. In September, the company introduced iTunes 10, which includes new features such as 99-cent TV rentals, AirPlay wireless music playback and Ping.

There is some skepticism as to whether the Beatles can boost iTunes sales.

Forrester Research analyst Mark Mulligan was chastised by some Beatles fans after blog comments he made regarding the move.

"So finally Apple gets the Beatles catalogue Steve Jobs has been pining for," Mulligan wrote. "Thank goodness that is out of the way; now we can focus on important developments. The fact that securing the content of a band old enough to be most young music fans' grandfathers (and some) is a sad reflection of the state of the digital music market. . . . The digital music market (and the young music fans that record labels desperately need to get engaged) needs new music products, not yesteryear's hits repackaged."

In a follow-up post, Mulligan defended his comments, saying:

"My blog post is not about the Beatles, it is about the digital music market." ... "This is about the fact that getting the Beatles onto iTunes has been the biggest, longest running saga in the digital music space for far too long. It really is not a big deal for the digital music space."

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