This happens every year. Rumors begin to swirl that Apple is holding a music-related event, and after the talk dies down of what new iPods are in store, the focus shifts to iTunes. And from there, it shifts to The Beatles. You know, the most popular band of all time that happens to have no songs from its catalog available for legal purchase anywhere online. Yeah, those Beatles.
So anyway, every year there are rumors of The Beatles coming to iTunes. The rumors seem to start from just about everywhere: From Steve Jobs’ love of The Beatles, to EMI removing DRM on music, to the settlement of lawsuits with Apple Corp, to the appearance of Beatles’ album covers on Apple event promotions. There have even been quotes from Paul McCartney saying he thought such a deal would happen soon. The only problem is that it never ends up happening. But this year could actually be different. Well, maybe.
First of all, The Beatles are definitely releasing their music in video game form for a new Rock Band game. That’s a first for them, branching out of traditional music distribution. This game is launching on 9/9/09, which happens to be the same day as the rumored next Apple event. That, in and of itself, doesn’t really mean much, but there are reports today that on the same day, The Beatles are releasing their entire catalog, digitally re-mastered for the first time, on CD, as Cult of Mac points out.
Wait, CD? People still buy those? Yes, they do, though they’re increasingly going digital and choosing iTunes as their store. So it stands to reason that EMI and Apple Corps (the corporation that handles The Beatles’ affairs, not to be confused with the other Apple we’re talking about here) have looked at the numbers and seen the trends, and realize that if they really want the catalog to explode in sales, they’re going to have to release it online, and preferably through iTunes.
But there’s more. In the press release for The Beatles re-mastered release there’s this nugget:
Each of the CDs is packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album.
What does that sound like? It sounds like the perfect type of album for Apple to try out its new “Cocktail” music format, also set to be unveiled at the September event. While not all the details are known about Cocktail, it is believe that it’s a format that places emphasis on album purchases by giving downloaders all types of goodies like, yes, artwork, booklets, liner notes, photos and films.
The press release says nothing of online versions of the albums, but it’s entirely possible that those are being kept as a surprise, and possibly even for Apple’s event. Or maybe not. But at the very least, you know that while the engineers were remastering the recordings, they were thinking about how the catalog would be dispersed over the web eventually too. It’s not a matter of “if”, but a question of “when”. And 9/9/09 sounds like the perfect date for a full-on assault of Beatles music on the masses.
This is of course all just speculation, that history suggests will be wrong. But if we find out that the Apple event is at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco on 9/9/09, and that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both happen to be in town…I’m just saying. And how would that be for a Steve Jobs return to the limelight after months away on medical leave? Boom!