The Beatles - or at least the folks who publish the hallowed band's music - are giving a big holiday gift to the universe.
It's all too much.
On Wednesday, the official TheBeatles.com website announced that as of 12:01 a.m. Philadelphia time on Christmas Eve, the band's entire catalog will be available for streaming on nine of the major streaming service providers, including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Tidal, and Amazon's Prime Music.
The Beatles (as a publishing entity, anyway) have followed innovations in music sales very deliberately, as in slowly. The Fab Four have been available for download on iTunes, for example, only since 2010. That delay was over copyright issues.
But streaming is now overtaking downloading as a means for listeners to access the music they want. Streamed tunes are not the kind of revenue stream the band enjoyed when you had to buy actual vinyl. Royalties per streamed tune are lower than they are for downloaded tunes (which in turn are lower than they were for physical singles, albums, and CDs), and some artists have resisted that route. Most famous among them is Taylor Swift, who in 2014 took all of her music off Spotify. And Adele did not allow her current smash album 25 to be streamed (although the opening-wedge single "Hello" was streamable). She wanted people to buy the album, and they have. At a time when people don't buy albums much anymore, 25 has sold six million copies so far in the United States.
The Beatles broke up in 1970 after the most successful run in pop history. Among their many achievements were 20 number-one hits on the Billboard charts. Still the best-known brand in pop, they are also still a potent sales force. Their album 1, a compilation of almost all of their number-one hits, was the biggest-selling album of the period from 2000 to 2009 and has sold 31 million-plus copies since its release in 2000.
And their cachet has carried across to new media. When they finally did cave in and go on iTunes, in their first week they enjoyed two million downloaded singles and 450,000 albums.
That cachet might be why the Beatles also thought it might be good, for this happy holiday, to release 1+, an elaborate deluxe reissue - and remastering - of 1, including 27 short promotional films that accompanied the smash hits. People still buy the Beatles, and the new reissue sounds great.
It's a Beatles kind of Christmas, once again. They can be streamed and downloaded, and Beatles vinyl and CDs are all over the place. Only two members of the band - Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr - are still living, but they keep touring. As band, as brand, as business entity, they have worked it out.