The Beatles on iTunes opinion clash - the long and winding road or the end

The internet rumour mill is abuzz with speculation The Beatles will finally hit iTunes this afternoon. If it’s true, will it be the most important addition to Apple’s download store yet, or a distraction from the issues Apple should really be focusing its efforts on? Electricpig’s editor James Holland, and writer Mic Wright hash out their differences, and weigh up the options for Apple’s 3pm announcement. Who do you agree with?

The Beatles on iTunes: bigger than digital Jesus!
Mic Wright

“Here come old Steve Jobs, he come thinking about money, he got Beatles on iTunes…” Later today, it looks like the long-awaited arrival of The Beatles on iTunes will actually happen (conspiracy fans: take a look at that invite – those clock hands almost perfectly mimic the arm positions of the band on the Help cover). The idea that ‘60s most prominent digital deniers might finally crack is causing much debate here at Electricpig towers.

Electricpig’s esteemed editor James Holland and I agree on many things, but when it comes to The Beatles we’re battling. James things The Beatles coming to iTunes is resolutely ‘meh’ but I think it’s an important step and just kind of ace too.

It’s fair to say that older Beatles fans have had quite enough opportunities to buy up their back catalogue: from the recent remasters campaign right back to the original vinyl LPs, there is a mountain of Beatles records out there. But there’s something about The Beatles finally arriving in a digital format that matters. It’s a philosophical thing: the point at which digital stores become permanently undeniable – our musical heritage resting in the cloud as well as racks of CDs.

The second part of my argument with James is our disagreement over whether people under-25 even vaguely care about The Beatles. I think they do. He thinks they couldn’t care less. When we took the discussion to Twitter, the replies were fairly evenly split. I taught kids who were obsessed with The Beatles and if you look at the listener stats, the band sure have got a lot of young fans.

There’s a quality to The Beatles’ music that is utterly timeless, which turns those songs into something akin to a folk memory, a strand of cultural DNA that runs through everything that has come since. The Beatles are a cultural virus, they infect each generation in turn. Just as we haven’t stopped playing classical music, we won’t stop playing The Beatles, however trendy it becomes to say: “Oh yeah, The Beatles were SO overrated.”

The Beatles are so relentlessly covered that new fans will always be led back to the source and I like that they could soon be doing that digitally. Ringo and Paul might have rocked up for The Beatles Rock Band launch but them onstage with tech’s greatest rock star Steve Jobs? Well, that would be something special…

The Beatles on iTunes: can’t buy me love
James Holland

The Beatles? Not a part of the digital revolution? Paul, Ringo and the fifth Beatle, Yoko, have been squeezing cash out of that back catalogue like a fat kid with a calippo.

Mic needs to pick up his joypad and play The Beatles Rock Band, or prize open his wallet and fork out for their outrageously expensive self-released digital tracks (complete with gaudy USB Apple housing).

Maybe if he’s feeling cheap, he could head over to where all their tracks, including live versions, are available for free online (albeit in a Flash player). But however he listens to The Beatles’ cultural cash cow, its herding into the iTunes enclosure won’t make any impact on his, or your, life.

It won’t make iTunes any more exciting, any better designed, or less prone to crashing when I try to import a wonky file. It won’t make iOS 4.2 arrive any quicker, or fix the alarm clock on my iPhone. Frankly, if Apple hadn’t plastered a billboard on its homepage, I doubt many people would’ve noticed. That’s because those who want to buy The Beatles have done already, and those half dozen that haven’t – you think being able to do it on iTunes will coax them to do so?

When was the last time you wanted a track, but couldn’t find it on iTunes? For me it was this week: Akira The Don has a new album out. Not on iTunes, but that didn’t stop me downloading it, enjoying it, and dutifully dragging the MP3s into iTunes so it’ll sync to my iPhone. The same goes for Beatles fans, many of whom I imagine are (careful now) borrowing CDs from their parents to do just that.

The fact shows The Beatles have fans of many ages proves my point: it’s not hard to get the band’s music in digital format. In fact, ripping it from a CD provides a better quality version.

If you’re foolish enough to buy into The Beatles’ latest publicity stunt and debit your iTunes account for the privilege, good for you. Me? I’ll hold on to my cash thanks, and keep waiting for a meaningful iTunes update.

Who’s right? Give us your opinions in the comments section below!

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