NPR logo The Beatles On iTunes: Does This Change Anything?

The Beatles On iTunes: Does This Change Anything?

For years, I eagerly waited for The Beatles' music to be available on iTunes.  But now that it is, its arrival feels anticlimactic. My hope for The Beatles in digital and downloadable form was that we'd get The Beatles' catalog remastered.  But that already happened — more than a year ago, on CD, with The Beatles Stereo Box. That box set is the best way to hear the band's music, and I think the closest to the original intent. I enjoy it even more than my vinyl, and I have many import pressings. (New vinyl versions may change my mind — maybe that's next year's holiday surprise.)

The Beatles' members take a break from November 1963 rehearsals. Fox Photos/Hulton Archive hide caption

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Fox Photos/Hulton Archive

The Beatles' music wasn't on iTunes up until now for business reasons. It had nothing to do with some anti-download, anti-digital philosophical argument; nothing to do with the big picture. If this was a philosophical change of heart, then this might be a big news story. But let's be clear: This is a business story. It isn't a music story.

In 1973, Apple Records released two collections, the "Blue" and "Red" albums, which have just been reissued and remastered on CD. They were best-of collections of Beatles songs, taken from Beatles albums and assembled by then-Beatles manager Allen Klein. As a fan, those collections were always a sore point for me. For a good part of the band's career, The Beatles made albums and singles — and the two were separate and distinct. I always felt Beatles albums should be heard as albums, and Beatles singles as singles.

Now, with iTunes, I have the same objection. For the first time, people can now buy individual songs from Beatles albums, and buying individual songs isn't the best way to hear the band's music.  But I lost that argument years ago, and surely it's better to have the music heard — particularly by young audiences who might not buy or hear music any other way — than to leave it sitting on a dusty shelf.

So, what do you think of The Beatles music on iTunes?

Does it matter to you?