It’s Christmas, so it must be time for a Beatles piece of sales and marketing activity. Yes, it seems Sir Paul and Ringo (+ Yoko and Olivia) just don’t have enough money. Last year, it was remastered albums and Beatles Rock Band. This year, the world’s most famous foursome has finally come to iTunes.
Far from being the beginning of a whole new era of Beatlemania, it’s all seemed a bit of a damp squib. This is going to be bad news for EMI and Guy Stevens most of all, who are undoubtedly the real instigators behind the move to take the band’s back catalogue digital during a period of massive uncertainty for the company. There is currently only one Beatles song in the iTunes top 40 (‘Hey Jude’). There was apparently a boost for ‘Yesterday’ over the weekend following Rebecca’s performance of the track on X Factor, but it seems that most people were put off by the appallingly limp and lifeless versions of an uninspired selection of tracks on Saturday night. Only One Direction (and Simon Cowell) even bothered attempting to do something a bit different with the source material.
Charles Arthur was asking on Twitter last week why people would bother buying individual tracks when the albums are so readily available, and it seems that the digital music buying public have backed him up. A look at the iTunes album chart shows the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ albums in at 19 and 20, with ‘Sgt Pepper’s…’ at 32 and ‘Abbey Road’ at 38. If you’re young, and new to The Beatles, those four are as good a place as any to start. In the US, there are three Beatles allbums in the chart. Others have looked at this as more of a long term investment for Apple and iTunes – as the only place to buy digital Beatles online, over a period of years they will rack up enough sales to make it a worthwhile investment.
However, coming from the brand that has set the bar when it comes to highly memorable and talked about launches, The Beatles coming to iTunes got lost in the general noise of the day. What else could Apple (and EMI) have done to make a splash and fill the chart with Beatles tracks? More teaser activity? A version of a track that had never been released anywhere before? Branded Beatles iTunes giftcards for Christmas? (I would definitely have bought one of those). Beatles Rock Band has a store, maybe a co-promotion there would have been effective, especially as it might appeal to a younger demographic. Those are just some ideas off the top of my head; for now, both Apple and EMI will have to be content with the long game and keep dreaming of those ‘Beatles back at Number One’ headlines.