Today The Beatles made their back catalogue available to stream online. This provides a significant cultural marker for, as in the ’80s when CD was on the rise, the endorsement of The Beatles gives the ‘format’ full validity within the music industry.
Most people these days seem happy to hire their music rather than buy it – streaming sites offering you access to their service at a fee, or free of charge if you’re happy to put up with adverts. It’s more like borrowing from a library than buying from a shop. What’s for sure is that the way we consume music has radically changed in the 21st century.
Some people still, of course, want to buy hard copies of the records they love – the re-emergence of vinyl during recent times a fascinating development. However, the vinyl revival is but a drop in the ocean, and it’s streaming where the major developments lie.
The situation parallels what happened in the early days of radio when the record companies initially received no money for the tracks played over the airwaves, the stations believing that the promotional value of these plays should suffice. The record companies and their artists disagreed and, after negotiation, a license fee that enabled the stations to legally feature gramophone recordings was established, with trade bodies like ASCAP in the US and PRS in the UK collecting these royalties.
The streaming issue has echoed this, with tracks initially made available online via peer-to-peer platforms like Napster as the 20th century drew to a close. Subsequently, platforms like iTunes, YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify have revolutionized the way people listen to music – streaming becoming increasingly popular until it outstripped physical sales in its importance to the industry. It was then a case of the record companies monetizing these areas, providing new avenues of revenue.
Now The Beatles are onboard, streaming becomes legitimized across the board, with people who’ve never even thought of this option now becoming aware of the possibility via the blanket news coverage that’s accompanied this announcement. Younger internet users have already engaged with streaming for a number of years, so the fact that they can now access The Beatles catalogue acts as a generational marker, with what’s widely regarded as the popular music era’s greatest body of work presented in a whole new contemporary context.
With Christmas upon us, this seems to be a fitting selection to share, and can now be streamed as a Spotify playlist, featuring many of their more quirky recordings, as well as some big tunes from their mop-top days of the early ’60s.
The Beatles Wikipedia: