Apple finally brings Beatles to iTunes; does it matter?

Apple on Tuesday finally announced that it would bring The Beatles to its popular digital music store iTunes.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Apple on Tuesday finally -- finally! -- announced that it would bring The Beatles to its popular digital music store iTunes.

The company made quite a big deal about it, leading up to the announcement with a message on its homepage, Apple.com, stating the following: "Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget."

Specifically, iTunes will carry the following content, starting today:

  • 13 remastered studio albums ($12.99 for single albums; $19.99 for doubles)
  • The two-volume “Past Masters” compilation
  • The “Red” and “Blue” collections
  • A special, $149 digital “Beatles Box Set” featuring the “Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964” concert film

Individual songs will cost $1.29 each.

The deal has been an elusive one for the company. Ever since Apple (Computer) tussled with The Beatles' record label Apple (Corps.) over its name -- then spent the better part of the last two decades in legal spats as the former encroached on the latter's industry -- it's been a difficult endeavor to get arguably the world's most popular recorded artist on digital store shelves.

There's no denying that it's a financial coup for both companies. Apple (Corps.) gets to place its marquee artist -- and all of its studio recordings, live performances, commercials and movies for which it owns rights -- in the world's largest media store.

Meanwhile, Apple (Computer) gets the world's biggest act, the product of one part political jujitsu, one part business interest and a healthy dose of nostalgia.

The question, of course, is the price. But we'll never know.

But the big takeaway here is whether it all matters. To be sure, having The Beatles accessible on a current medium -- "digital" -- is a big deal. No more copying MP3s from CDs or vinyl records, etc.

But does it matter? It's highly likely that if you're a Beatles fan, you've found a way to get the Fab Four's music on your iPod already. In fact, I'm almost sure of it.

So what does this deal bring, then? The following:

  • A chance to re-sell Beatles music to casual listeners who didn't bother to copy over music from an old medium;
  • A chance to bring the Beatles to a new generation of music consumers;
  • A major marketing coup and the ability of Apple to use Beatles music and video in commercials.

That last back-slapping one is important. In the press release alone were quotes from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jobs, Yoko Ono Lennon, Olivia Harrison and EMI Group CEO Roger Faxon -- quite a group.

Will this deal make a bunch of money? Absolutely. But it's unclear how much Beatles content has to move before Apple recoups its investment.

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