With typical self-importance, The Beatles made a grand announcement that you could stream their music from today.
Aging pundits leapt on the news and parroted the same line from the press release that has followed the Fab Four around since the dawn of the CD age: Would this mean The Beatles would return to No 1?
To which the nation’s bored youths replied as one: “Of course not. Now, bog off grandad.” By 10am, Beatles classics like Hey Jude had been streamed fewer than 1,000 times on Spotify.
That figure had risen by mid-day, but that was doubtless in part by people jumping onto Spotify to see how many times Eleanor Rigby and She Loves You had been streamed by now. News of the Fabs’ streaming ailment had gone viral among a storm of bad puns.
Really, this should surprise precisely nobody. Exactly the same thing happened when The Beatles’ albums were finally made available on iTunes in 2010, around ten years after they should have been. The world continued to turn, and not one Beatles album made the Top Five that week. The same will happen again this week, when interest in Sgt Pepper and Revolver will remain much the same as it has done for the past 30 years.
“Anyone over the age of 20 who says they hate The Beatles is a try-hard cocktip”
Let’s be clear: The Beatles’ cultural importance is immense. Their music remains perfect, and every home should have at least two Beatles albums if not all of them. Anyone over the age of 20 who says they hate The Beatles is a try-hard cocktip who should be flogged about the parts with a rolled-up John & Paul & George & Ringo poster.
But. To anyone under the age of 50, The Beatles is the music you grew up with. You can’t imagine never having heard their music, and it’s as imprinted on your brain like nursery rhymes. And that’s what the likes of I Want To Hold Your Hand and A Hard Day’s Night are to most people: great songs from your childhood that your parents know inside-out too.
So why on earth would you need to stream them, when you know every note of every Beatles song so well already? You may as well hunt down Baa Baa Black Sheep on Apple Music.
The best thing The Beatles could have done is put their albums on streaming services with no announcement and let word spread organically. That may have created some kind of buzz.
The trouble is, the monolithic stasis that infects The Beatles’ business plans means every move they make now is both too inflexible and thus far too late to be of any significance to the outside world anymore.
Nobody envies trying to please all of Macca, Ringo and the estates of Lennon and Harrison. But, by the time they all agree, aeons have passed. Instead, by making booming proclamations that “The Beatles are on Spotify now!”, it makes it look as if The Beatles are trying to say “Only now are these streaming services totally legitimate”. Well, Spotify was doing perfectly nicely already before you lot turned up with your 50-year-old albums, thanks.
The Beatles were and will probably always remain the most important band there ever was. But trying to muscle in on the kids’ streaming territory so high-handedly makes them look absurd. It’s beneath them.
Instead, let’s hope the estate of Beethoven announces you can stream his Fifth Symphony from New Year’s Day. There’s an announcement we could all get behind.
Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn