At 2:59PM GMT, November the 16th, Apple fans and technology enthusiasts around the world sat waiting to hit “refresh” on Apple’s homepage. Then the clock struck twelve, and the site took a good minute or two to load on even the fastest of connections. Could it be a streaming service to rival Spotify? A Facebook partnership to push Ping onto iPhones around the world?
No, it was the Beatles back catalogue finally being released on the iTunes store.
I cannot have felt more disappointed than I did at that moment. The Beatles? I’m not sorry if I offend anyone’s pedestal-using sensibilities from here on out in this post, but the vast majority of people do not care about The Beatles. I’ll just let that sink in, for a minute. Had it been a technological announcement, a revolutionary one from the company which has churned out the iPad and a new iPhone in the past 12 months, alongside the latest model of MacBook Air, the internet would’ve combusted with the firey rush of tweets and status messages. And Jobs would be grinning once more at his balance sheet.
Music is a thing of the past when it comes to importance. The X Factor, Pop Idol, even YouTube have engendered a gradual degradation of the “musical icon”. Of course, the scale of concerts will continue to increase, and the viral nature of the web means new stars will reach global fame in decreasing time-spans. But it’s important to remember that they’re all just musicians, and we don’t place the same importance in them as the men, women and children of the Sixties placed in John, George, Ringo and Paul.
I could take or leave The Beatles. I’m aware of their significance, their contributions to the music industry as a whole. It’s not the selling box-sets that gets me, or the fact that Yoko Ono saw fit to deny the music market of an easier way of accessing her late husband’s work (but we won’t go into Yoko Ono, that’s a whole other blog post). It’s more the fact that Apple, of all companies, has made the mistake of assuming people don’t see technology as the new Beatles.
The iPhone really is their latest single, and the MacBook their reliable back catalogue. Apple are rockstars of the technology sector, and announcements about a world-famous band from half a century ago just don’t cut the mustard, especially when they’re afforded more secrecy and importance than some of their major releases. The only equivalent would be Microsoft announcing the Zune store had picked up Michael Jackson’s back catalogue – the key difference being that he’s not around to reap the benefits of royalties.
That’s all the decision is, really – money. Same with the recent Beatles Rock Band game. Things you’d never have seen Lennon put his name on are being branded by Yoko as she slowly begins to realise that holding the Beatles back-catalogue back from the iTunes store is an exercise in financial stupidity. For all the talk about peace and showing the world we’re bigger than statistics, the surviving holders of the Beatles rights aren’t hesitant to make money. But why is Apple so excited?
The money. They know they’ll be loaded in terms of album sales this week, next week, and for the foreseeable future, before the sales fizzle to a trickle. Most people gave up and bought the CDs for less money, then uploaded them – as happens quite often when it comes to iTunes and its bizarre, penny-pinching pricing regime. I’m this close to Christmas, and therefore this close to a Kindle, and found out Harry Potter wasn’t on the Kindle Store. Why? Rowling believes in only reading “real” books. So do I, but is she really expecting people to lug round thousands of pages on holiday in 2010?
Let’s not beat around the bush, Apple have disappointed people (namely me). But depending on the reaction (they’ll be trending anyway, so to hell with it, right?) we might see Apple rein in the theatrics until something truly amazing is revealed. Like a MacBook that costs less than a second-hand car.