Music fans rejoice – The Beatles have finally embraced the latest tech trends and have allowed their music onto Apple Music and other music streaming platforms. The decision, however, is a lot more significant than one might think.
While The Beatles split up in April of 1970, their music has been hugely important ever since, not just for their historic value, but also for their melodious value. They have, however, largely been resistant to technological changes until years after those changes have taken place.
It took years for the music of The Beatles to appear on iTunes. While iTunes first rose to popularity in the early 2000s, it took until the year 2010 for The Beatles to release their discography on the platform, a time when music streaming was starting to take over anyway and digital sales would soon begin to take a hit.
“In terms of digital the Beatles have always been quite late to the party – they came to iTunes in 2010, which was a good five years after the iTunes Music Store started gaining momentum,” said Chris Cooke, co-founder of music news website CMU, in an interview with BBC. “We had expected they would probably do an exclusive deal to stream their music with one service, but it looks like instead they are going to be pretty much everywhere from day one.”
The fact that the Beatles have embraced music streaming is indicative of one thing, which we’ve been aware of for a few years now – digital sales are on the way out.
The Beatles embracing music streaming isn’t the only indication that digital sales are on the way out. Apple was the champion of digital downloads, launching the iTunes store in 2003, which quickly rose to prominence, for a number of reasons. The biggest one, however, was ease of use.
At the time, illegal downloads were beginning to be the popular way to find music. The iTunes store, however, convinced users to once again pay for music by being the most convenient platform out there. When Apple admits that its great music sales platform might no longer be the best way to consume music, you know something is up.
So what does the end of digital sales mean? Well, it should be a good thing. It’s definitely a good thing for consumers. Music streaming is easier for consumers, who are able to access their music from any device by simply logging in to an account. Not only that, but it doesn’t take up any space on a device, unless the user wants to download the files.
There are, however, a number of significant hurdles to music streaming and how it’s used. The main issue right now is how it generates money, and the fact that it seemingly generates a lot less money that digital sales.
It’s certainly possible that The Beatles were hoping to wait until the music streaming business was a little more fleshed out and set in stone. The business in general has been changing quite a bit over the past few years, as more people join music streaming services and more streaming services join the competition.
“There’s a really simple reason why the Beatles catalogue took so long to join streaming services – their publishers didn’t want to do anything to damage potential sales of reissues and retrospectives – it’s a very lucrative catalogue,” said Mark Mulligan, a researcher from media firm Midia, in an interview with the BBC. “But they’ve waited until the market has got some scale and they could get the best deal. It’s a big PR catch as it helps communicate that the platforms are ‘all the music in the world’ – which is the value proposition of streaming services.”
The Beatles’ caution in embracing new technologies, however, hasn’t had a large impact on the band’s popularity. The Beatles are a timeless band, and even if they never embraced music streaming, they would remain so.
Many other prominent artists, however, have questioned whether or not music streaming is a model that should be pursued. The latest of these artists include the likes of Taylor Swift and Adele, who hasn’t released her latest album to music streaming services at all, yet has still managed to sell millions of copies.
For better or for worse, these cases are diminishing. Digital sales are now the older technology. CDs are as good as dead. The Beatles are the last nail in the coffin.