One band member at a time, Apple has been bringing the Beatles to iTunes. As of today, sixteen of Lennon’s solo albums will be available digitally. They’ll join the already available solo works of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as well as music from Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, and sons Julian and Sean. Only George Harrison, who passed away in 2001, remains missing from the digital domain (along with the catalog of the band as a whole).
The ability to offer Lennon’s music is a significant achievement for Apple, and likely a significant source of revenue for all involved. Some 27 years after his untimely death, Lennon remains an icon and his star power is still a tremendous royalty engine. In 2006 he ranked number 4 on Forbes macabre list of Top Earning Dead Celebrities with earnings of $24m. He was out-earned only be Kurt Cobain, Elvis and Charles Schultz (fellow Beatle George Harrison was number 12). Also, according to Nielsen Soundscan, the Beatles still sell more than a million CD’s a year in the U.S.
All of the Lennon songs on iTunes have been remastered since their original recording. The songs in the catalog, which is managed by EMI, will be available in both Fairplay encrypted and DRM-Free iTunes Plus formats subject to the terms of EMI and Apple’s prior agreements.
In a statement Yoko Ono said, “John would have loved the fact that his music will now be available in a format suited to a new generation of listeners.”
As a promotion for the first 30 days, exclusive video content will be bundled with purchase of “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” “Sometime in New York City,” “Walls and Bridges,” “Milk and Honey” and the collections “Anthology” and “Working Class Hero.”
For now, the official Beatles catalog will still require imagination but that should change soon too. Reportedly, Beatles tracks are being remastered in preparation for their eventual iTunes release. A formal digital delivery date isn’t set but the Beatles, along with fellow British hold outs Led Zeppelin, are largely expected to be available at the music store some time in the late fall (or early 2008).