You may not have even heard the news that a Norwegian broadcaster was offering up the entire Beatles catalog, previously unavailable in any digital form, as a downloadable podcast earlier this week. Well, it doesn’t really matter, because as of yesterday the plan is dead, and Paul McCartney describes the effort to finally offer a digital Beatles catalog as “stalled.” This is getting ridiculous. The Beatles will never become irrelevant, but this refusal to join the 21st century isn’t doing the legacy any favors. Already, there are kids today who call the Beatles overrated, saying they “don’t get” the hype, etc. Music, and the way people listen to it, has changed, for better or worse, and the iPod generation is more interested in the hot new single than an LP work of art like The White Album. There’s nothing the Beatles or Apple Corp. (the company established to manage their catalog) can do about that, but it would definitely help keep the band’s music alive and well if the young music fans who live on iTunes were at least given access to Beatles tracks, should they decide they want to hear for themselves what all the fuss is about.
But perhaps even more important, this “stall” is just bad business. Shunning a distribution model that is growing for one that is dying (CDs) makes no sense, not to mention the fact that anyone savvy enough to use bittorrent can get the entire catalog for free anyway. Interestingly, Amazon just revealed that its top-selling MP3 album of the year was Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV — an album that Trent Reznor also offered as a free, high-quality download through a Creative Commons license. This means a TON of people paid for an album, even though they didn’t have to, simply because they wanted to support the artist. But the only option for someone interested in obtaining the Beatles in digital form is an illegal version where nothing goes to the artists. In other words, even if a kid WANTED to pay for an Abbey Road download, there’s just no way.
Enough is enough. I love and respect the Beatles and hope that future generations are exposed to their brilliance so the legacy lives forever. Hopefully, Apple and the Beatles themselves will realize their wrong-headed resistance to change is putting that in jeopardy. What think you?