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Why weren't The Beatles on iTunes?


The Beatles Brand and Apple Corps
A man walks to a cash register to purchase The Beatles: Rock Band video game in a London store on Sept. 9, 2009.
A man walks to a cash register to purchase The Beatles: Rock Band video game in a London store on Sept. 9, 2009.
AP Photo/Akira Suemori

In 1962, Brian Epstein was managing a band called The Beatles which was gaining a fan base playing jazz clubs in England. Epstein shopped the band to recording companies hoping for a big contract. Though EMI had turned down The Beatles, George Martin made an exciting offer for the group to sign with EMI's smaller company Parlophone Records.

The months that followed were tense, with the firing of popular drummer Pete Best, and The Beatles' transition into recording artists. Martin and EMI/Parlophone launched George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to international fame. The original "Beatlemania" lasted through 1966, after an average of two new albums per year and a long, exhausting touring schedule.

Harrison described Epstein's death in 1967 as the "end of a chapter" in Beatles history (source: Davies). The band's next chapter started with a spiritual journey, drug experimentation and some of The Beatles most celebrated recordings. The Beatles also launched their own organization, Apple Corps, to give themselves more control over their profits.

Apple Corps Ltd., organized in 1968, included recording label Apple Records. Apple Records shared credit with EMI, Parlophone and Capitol Records for the 1968 self-titled album, "The Beatles," which fans refer to as the White album, and the 1969 album "Abbey Road." At the same time, Apple Records independently released "Yellow Submarine" in 1969 and "Let It Be" in 1970.

Apple Corps continues to hold the licensing rights for the Beatles' brand and music. The company is owned by former Beatles McCartney and Starr, and by the estates of Lennon and Harrison. Neil Aspinall, a long-time friend of the band, was the manager of Apple Corps until his retirement in 2007.

Apple Corps ventured into other businesses, such as film production and music publishing, with mixed successes on each front. The company's most notorious ventures, though, have been its lawsuits. Since the 1970s, Apple Corps has repeatedly sued EMI and Capitol Records for unpaid royalties to The Beatles. It's also repeatedly confronted Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) for trademark infringement and violation of prior court settlements.

Now under CEO Jeff Jones, a former VP at Sony/BMG, Apple Corps is keeping The Beatles' music alive. On Sept. 9, 2009, Apple Corps licensed the release of The Beatles' remastered catalog and the "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game. Also in 2009, Apple Corps announced and a deal with Disney to make a 3-D adaptation of the 1968 film "Yellow Submarine."