As a girl, I shivered one night in the basement where our TV had been banished, and thrilled to the Beatles’ American debut. Not all my shivers were from the cold of that unheated room… I’d fallen in love.
A landmark event in 20th century music, the 1964 Ed Sullivan Show ignited the outbreak of Beatlemania in America. Like every other girl in America, I fell in love that night. With rock ‘n’ roll, and the Beatles.
Photos © Apple & the Beatles
Today marks another landmark: the Beatles have finally agreed to distribute their music via Apple iTunes (to their relief and Apple’s). This agreement has been more than 20 years in the making (and has probably enriched multiple lawyers on 2 continents in the process).
Apple’s web site offers a loving tribute to the Beatles via streaming videos of landmark performances, gorgeous photo albums, and more. All presented with the design flair you expect of Apple.
A Long Journey to Resolution…
Anyone who has been following the Apple vs. Beatles saga knows that the two have been at loggerheads for more than 2 decades over trademark disputes to the name “Apple” and the logos (finally resolved in 2007). Here are logos from the 1980’s for the two marks. We all know what Apple’s logo looks like these days…
If you’ve owned a vinyl Beatles album (pre-CD days), you may recall the Granny Smith apple symbol, a reference to the Beatles’ corporate entity, Apple Corps Ltd, a multi-media publishing empire. One of their main divisions was “Apple Records.”
As long as Apple Computer competed only in the computer and IT technology realm, the two giants maintained an uneasy détente. But once Apple started to market enabling technologies for music, such as the early MIDI board that connected synthesizers and musical instruments to their computers, the battle began in earnest. Since then Apple’s amazingly successful ventures into consumer electronics and music distribution — their achievements of the past decade — have dramatically upped the stakes to this conflict.
The Labors of Many…
As a former Apple employee, I had some insights into this dispute… For some of the time I worked in Apple’s marketing organization, the music marketing team reported to me.
Charged with market development, those marketers were passionate evangelists: driven to educate musicians and composers that music could be created, performed, or enjoyed with the help of Apple Macintoshes. (This was 10 years before Apple introduced the iPod.) Those were early days; so few musicians recorded or performed with Macs on stage that my team knew everyone who was doing anything.
Even so, that 2‑person music marketing team spent an inordinate amount of time briefing Apple’s lawyers. (Inordinate relative to the revenues being generated.)
The legal team was locked in a seemingly endless dispute with the Beatles’ business managers over rights to the “apple” trademark. My team was frustrated by the fact that the Beatles themselves couldn’t be bothered to venture an opinion on the subject (most likely because Apple’s impact on the music business 20 years ago was so small). Year after year, Apple’s lawyers engaged with their lawyers — and the army of “suits” who sheltered the Beatles from nasty real-world issues like copyright disputes and competitive realms.
Fast-forward 20 years, iTunes has become the most dominant force in music distribution, Apple’s brand the world’s most respected (or one of the most respected), and the Beatles have finally reached agreement with Apple… Everyone wins, especially music lovers.
It’s a bittersweet moment for people who know how long this dispute has raged. But it helps me understand why Apple has devoted so much time, energy and money to the Beatles tribute that appears on their website today.
It’s been a long journey. Finally, music to our ears: the Beatles’ music can now play on our iPhones, iPods and iPads.