The Beatles, iTunes, and 09 09 09

Apple (computer) held a press event yesterday, one that had been buzzed extensively ahead of time. The date was 9th September 2009, or 09/09/09, and the same date as the worldwide release of the Beatles remasters. The date ties in with a song on Let it Be, One after 909, and a song on the White Album called Revolution 9.

Despite the enduring popularity of the band, the Beatles music is not available on iTunes … yet. Naturally, the pundits foresaw a Beatlish announcement.

It seemed obvious; but doubts were raised when the official invitations went out. The invitations bore a lyric not from Lennon and/or McCartney, but rather from the Rolling Stones: It’s only rock and roll, but we like it.

As it turned out, Apple (computer) announced new iPods and an update to iTunes, but there was nothing about the Beatles.

What goes on? It’s now clear that the remastered Beatles were headed for iTunes – and probably still are – but whatever deal was in place fell through. The first evidence was a rapidly withdrawn comment from Yoko Ono shortly before the press event. Now we have confirmation from Bob Smeaton, who created mini-documentaries that are included with the new CDs:

Originally what happened was, the albums were going to be released on iTunes but that deal, you know, fell through for whatever reason. Some sort of political reason. So we actually set about creating a mini-documentary for each of the albums, so that when you bought the albums on iTunes, if you bought the whole album, because on iTunes you can pick like one song, right, if you bought the whole album, as an incentive to buy the whole album rather than just to cherry-pick songs, you would get this mini-documentary.

Indeed, this idea of bonus non-musical content that you get when purchasing an entire album from iTunes was announced yesterday. The concept is imaginatively called the iTunes LP – but only a few examples are available so far, just six according to Cult of Mac – Dylan’s Highway 61, The Doors 40th anniversary hits, American Beauty by the Grateful Dead, and albums by the Dave Matthews Band, Tyrese Gibson and Norah Jones. Pretty unexciting, especially when compared to a might-have-been announcement of all the Beatles albums appearing on iTunes for the first time and in the snazzy new format.

Of course you can have the Beatles in iTunes if you want to. Just buy the CDs and import them; and I’ve heard tell of other methods that fall foul of copyright.

Still, it seems Apple (computer) vs Apple (corps) is not quite over yet. No wonder Steve Jobs chose a lyric from that other Sixties band to launch the iTunes LP.