Apple and Beatles Come Together Over iTunes

In honor of the song “Revolution 9” (“Number nine, number nine….”), Sept. 9, 2009 (09/09/2009) will be both Beatles Day and iTunes/iPod Day as Apple rolls out new features for iPods (including cameras), a new version of iTunes (with support for Blu-ray DVDs), and, according to rumors, an album format for the iTunes Store that takes full advantage of the Beatles’ album graphics, lyrics, and liner notes. An iTunes/Beatles announcement is very likely, as well as an appearance by Steve Jobs, according to sources.

On the same day, Apple Corps (label for the Beatles) and Harmonix Music Systems (owned by MTV) will introduce The Beatles: Rock Band game for the XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii (see insider video interview). My guess is that the game will also appear on the iPod touch — since Apple (the consumer electronics company) wants to promote the games aspect of the iPod touch platform.

Why do I care so much about the Beatles appearing on iTunes, or their game on the iPod touch?

Back in Feb. 2007, I wrote (in Splendid Time is Guaranteed For All) that the Beatles catalog would soon be made available online by its owner, Apple Corps, for legal downloading from multiple online music services as well as iTunes. Beatles music was a turning point in the history of pop music, its CDs were a turning point in the history of CD sales, and its power, I thought, would once again prove to be a turning point in the history of online music. Besides, baby boomers would be excited, and that should stimulate downloads for record labels — baby boomers (those of us over 50) are the folks more likely to buy music for downloading, compared to the younger generations that are used to downloading free music.

Why it has taken so long is another story — getting all the rights lined up, getting all the new products ready (including The Beatles: Rock Band game and all 13 albums remastered), and getting the remaining Beatles approval. That it has taken so long means its impact is reduced from what it would have been in 2007. The Beatles may command the power to legitimize a medium — as it will with Rock Hero games, as more people over 30 buy them — but the iTunes Store is already thriving. Still, the Beatles remastered catalog has the power to forge a new format for historic albums on iTunes, and the game will certainly generate more sales of downloaded music and more interest in rock-hero games among the baby boomers, who haven’t yet turned on to them in large numbers.

I care most about the iTunes album goodies, which will indeed cause me to open my wallet for music I already own. I care about the remastered music, which will be available quickly for downloading. And I mostly care about the influence the Beatles may yet have on the next generation with these new products — including the message that the love you make must equal the love you take. May we all someday live in a Yellow Submarine.

P.S. Most of the song “Revolution 9” was recorded on May 30, 1968, during sessions for “Revolution” — Sept. 9, 1969 is not significant, though two days later John Lennon would add overdubs to one of my favorite unreleased songs, “What’s The New Mary Jane“, and the Fab Four worked on “Helter Skelter” on Sept. 9, 1968.

Here are versions of “I am the Walrus” by other bands:

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