Cyberclinic: Did The Beatles need iTunes? No, but EMI did

With another autumn came another flood of anticipation that The Beatles' back catalogue might be made officially available for download, which in turn offered another chance for music and technology hacks to sign off a speculative article with the phrase "Tomorrow Never Knows". But no longer. An annual tradition is over; you can finally buy The Beatles' tunes in disembodied digital format from Apple's iTunes store. What a relief.

It's certainly a relief for Ringo Starr, who was quoted in Apple's press release as being glad that he'd no longer be asked about it. But the idea of irate Beatles fans pestering Ringo and Paul about an opportunity to pay for Beatles MP3s seems faintly absurd. It's not as if we've been deprived of The Beatles' music. It's everywhere – on the radio, on vinyl in junk shops, on CDs available both online and on the high street, and, most notably, strewn across the internet in easily downloadable illegal versions. If you want to listen to The Beatles on your MP3 player, you can already do so; you don't need to pay twice. I don't know anyone who's been clamouring for this except those who've been paid to write about it. If there are Beatles fans for whom this is a truly momentous day, one wonders if they'd get similar joy from their favourite books being re-published using slightly different paper.

However, this does mark an important moment in the history of the music business's fraught relationship with the internet. Very few major artists are still holding out against the concept of the digital download – and in The Beatles' case it didn't even appear to be a moral objection, but more to do with contractual issues and the bitter history of legal wrangling between The Beatles' Apple Corps and Apple Inc over the computer giant's right to be involved in the music business under the "Apple" banner. The handful of acts that are still unwilling to play ball with Apple (or any other digital outlet) have now lost their Liverpudlian allies. And while the absence of "Hollywood Nights" by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band from iTunes might feel like a crusading personal triumph for Bob Seger, to everyone else it either doesn't matter, or just looks a bit weird.

It's a coup for Apple, and is the ultimate feather in the cap for a company that dominates the sale of online music. Did iTunes really need The Beatles? Not really. Did The Beatles need iTunes? No – but EMI, who like most major record companies haven't been having the best of times, probably needed this deal. It's becoming increasingly clear where the balance of power lies within the industry, and it's not with record labels. So, "Yesterday" et al are all now available. They're not cheap in comparison with other online music: 99p for a track, £10.99 for an album, £17.99 for a double album, with the Beatles Box Set – or, rather, a collection of zeros and ones that together sound very similar to the Beatles Box Set – at £125, some £30 more than you'd pay if you were living in the USA. While the two respective Apples are probably delighted, I am ambivalent. Goo goo g'joob.

I found myself applauding quietly at one piece of early Christmas preparation that surfaced on the web this week. Paul Hunkin, a PhD student in New Zealand, has written some code that automatically bids on low-priced, "strange and esoteric" items on TradeMe, the Kiwi equivalent of eBay. It also automatically pays for them and has them sent to his address. After a mundane start with a pack of watch batteries, the bot has now upped its game with a YuGiOh SOVR-EN076 Gemini Booster (whatever that might be), an old envelope featuring some stamps from the 1955 New Zealand International Stamp Expo, and a sheet of temporary tattoos featuring some birdlife. While this represents a small triumph in the world of programming, I'm not sure that Hunkin's family will be that delighted come Christmas morning.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Website Editor

    £15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

    Web Application Support Manager

    £60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

    C# Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments