By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 7:57 am
This is…odd. The Beatles are finally releasing their remastered catalog in digital form–both high-quality FLAC files and 320-Kbps MP3s. But they’re not selling it on iTunes or any other online music merchant. They’re releasing it as a limited edition of 30,000 16GB USB drives that fit into an “exquisitely crafted” commemorative apple.
The box set includes fourteen albums, fourteen short documentaries, cover art, and expanded liner notes, and will go for $280. That’s more than the recent CD release, and more than you’ll pay when this stuff does become available for online purchase. (Most of the Rolling Stones’ albums go for eight bucks a piece as downloads.)
The ordering page for the apple doesn’t say anything about whether it’s easy to get the music onto an iPod or other device. I hope it at least doesn’t do anything to make it difficult…
Why the unorthodox means of going digital? I can think of a few reasons.
The lads are used to commanding a premium price for their music, which is tough online. (Sticking it on a USB drive lets them hawk it as a limited edition, but every digital download is, by definition, an unlimited edition.)
Their business model as a corporate entity essentially consists of selling their fans the same music over and over–for more than forty years now! The limited-edition apple gives ’em the ability to do it at least one more time before it goes online. I’m already suspicious that some sort of non-limited edition USB version is on its way.
Not being available for download has become a Beatles trademark. The apple lets them go digital while keeping the tradition alive. And the longer they string out the saga, the bigger a deal it’ll be when they do go online.
A couple of predictions:
The Beatles’ music will be available from the major download stores within eighteen months–and maybe a lot sooner than that.
Tragically, the fabled Apple press event in which Steve Jobs’ ‘one more thing” is the Beatles and Paul McCartney and/or Ringo Starr take the stage to make music won’t ever happen. One day, the music will just be there, and we’ll eventually forget it hadn’t been all along.
So would you spend $280 for USBeatles?