Why weren't The Beatles on iTunes?

What did it take to bring the Beatles to iTunes?

In 1968, John Lennon described Apple Corps as "a thing that's free, where people can come and do and record" (source: Rose). Bruce Spizer, author of "The Beatles on Apple Records," feels that what Apple Inc. is doing with iTunes is similar what The Beatles were trying to do with Apple Corps back in 1968.

In 2008, former Beatle and solo recording artist Paul McCartney said, "I really hope it will happen because I think it should" (source: Sandoval). McCartney's albums are available on iTunes, as are the solo albums of his former bandmates Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon.

Hopes were high in 2007 when EMI announced it had settled a licensing issue with The Beatles. In the same year, EMI signed an agreement with Apple Inc. to provide its music on iTunes as premium DRM-free downloads, which are higher quality and free of copy-protected encoding. However, EMI also announced that The Beatles would not be among those, or any, of the EMI downloads.

So what was the hold up? We can't be sure. McCartney stated in November 2008 that talks had "stalled" between Apple Corps and EMI with regards to iTunes (source: Sandoval). In September 2009, following false claims that Yoko Ono had announced the iTunes debut, EMI representatives said that talks between Apple and EMI were ongoing with hopes that they would eventually reach a deal.

Before an iTunes deal could close, several parties had to agree to the terms. This included EMI, Apple Corps, Apple Inc., the former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison (led by widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison). With the tumultuous history between EMI, Apple Corps and Apple Inc.

But the original deal to keep The Beatles on iTunes will only last a short while; in fact, it's scheduled to end at some point in 2011 [source: Ogg]. For now, fans of The Beatles can purchase the Fab Four's entire catalog for $149, buy albums for $12.99, double albums for $19.99 and individual songs for $1.29. All of the records come with Apple's iTunes LP feature, which offers additional content including photos, lyrics and more.

Will Apple keep an exclusive lock on The Beatles online? Will they disappear from the iTunes Store in 2011? It's hard to say, but sales from the deal could reach $100 million or more [source: Satariano and Fixmer]. If that's true, The Beatles and Apple Inc. could have found harmony at long last.

For more on iTunes and related topics, follow the long and winding road to the links below.

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  • Apple Corps Ltd. "Albums." (Oct. 25, 2009)http://www.thebeatles.com/#/albums
  • Apple Inc. "Apple, Inc. and The Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd. Enter into New Agreement." 2007. (Oct. 25, 2009)http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/02/05apple.html
  • BBC. "At the core of the Apple dispute." May 8, 2006. (Oct. 25, 2009)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4750533.stm
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  • PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX. "The Walt Disney Studios, The Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd., and Oscar®-Winning Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis Dive Into New Magical 3D Adaptation of the 1968 Classic Yellow Submarine." Sept. 11, 2009. (Oct. 25, 2009)http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=265621
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  • Satariano, Adam, and Fixmer, Andy. "Apple Begins Selling Beatles Music Through ITunes." Bloomberg Businessweek. Nov. 16, 2010. (Nov. 16, 2010)http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-11-16/apple-begins-selling-beatles-music-through-itunes.html
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