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Music fans got an early Christmas present when, on December 24th, 2015, all of The Beatles’ major albums were released on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services.

This is a big deal. After all, The Beatles have been traditionally slow to embrace new digital media innovations. It wasn’t until 2010 (two years after Spotify launched!) that their music was available to download from the iTunes Store.

With all the criticism being leveled at the very act of music streaming by artists such as Taylor Swift Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify In the past week Taylor Swift has pulled her music from Spotify, inspired countless song-pun laden headlines and reignited the debate about streaming music services. Read More , Adele Why Adele Is Wrong to Stop You Streaming Her New Album Why Adele Is Wrong to Stop You Streaming Her New Album Adele is refusing to let services such as Spotify and Apple Music stream her new album 25. Which is a boneheaded decision that's bad for her, her fans, and her record label. Read More , and Taylor Swift again Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Apple Music Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Apple Music Taylor Swift recently persuaded Apple to pay artists for songs streamed during free trials of Apple Music. But she's wrong. Again. Read More it would not have been surprising to see The Beatles take a similarly hard-line stance against streaming; instead they have embraced it fully. This matters, both to The Beatles and to you. Here’s why.

This Brings The Beatles to New People

There are plenty of young people who have never heard of The Beatles These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney collaborated on a new track. You'll totally believe what happened next. Read More — they haven’t yet been exposed to their music. If your main source of music is torrents, SoundCloud, YouTube, or even Spotify, The Beatles work simply won’t have appeared on your radar.

Even though I know who they are and generally like The Beatles’ work, I didn’t listen to them much until they appeared on Spotify. Their music just wasn’t easily accessible through the channels that I listened. Most people under a certain age are in a similar position.


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However, within the first few days of being released on Spotify, The Beatles had been streamed more than 70 million times with 65 percent of listeners under the age of 34. It’s not that people didn’t want to listen to The Beatles prior to this, it’s just that, like me, they cared more for convenience than a band which split up more than 40 years ago. If you’re not prepared to buy the latest music from the hottest artists, you’re definitely not going to cough up a penny for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The thing is though, the demand is there. The Beatles are one of the most influential acts of the 20th Century. Yes, there will always be people who don’t know who Paul McCartney is These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney collaborated on a new track. You'll totally believe what happened next. Read More , but there will be far more music fans who want to hear the songs that inspired the modern artists they love.

Since I listened to The Beatles over Christmas, more obscure tracks have started appearing in my (awesome) Discover Weekly playlist Discover New Music with Spotify's Automagic Playlists Discover New Music with Spotify's Automagic Playlists Spotify has recently released several new ways of generating unique playlists that will help you discover awesome new music. We're here to guide you through these automagic playlist makers. Read More . By just being present on Spotify, their music is accessible in a way it never has been before. This is therefore guaranteed to expose The Beatles to people who otherwise would never have heard of them.

In other words, it keeps the most important artist of the last century relevant in today’s music consumption culture.

Streaming Is the Future

Paid downloads are in decline iTunes Sales Are Declining – Is This the End of Paid Music Downloads? iTunes Sales Are Declining – Is This the End of Paid Music Downloads? Spotify is replacing iTunes for many users – will that tend continue? Read More . Last year, according to Nielsen, they fell 12.5 percent, making for a total decline of 23.4 percent over the last two years. They predict that by 2021, paid music downloads will have fallen 93 percent from their peak.

For the first time last year, a major record label generated more revenue from streaming royalties than digital sales. The Financial Times reports that Warner Music Group’s streaming revenues for 2015 “exceeded download revenue by a significant amount”. According to the label’s chief executive, Stephen Cooper, “Streaming continues on a trajectory to become our largest revenue source.”

The Beatles may be the most successful act ever, but even they can’t stand contrary to numbers like these. The simple truth is that people are listening to music in a different way than they used to when The Beatles were active.

The idea of owning media is rapidly becoming outdated The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Read More . The Beatles recognizing this and getting on board with streaming is a serious milestone given their previously conservative stance on digital music. When historians look back at the rise of streaming services, I can see December 24th, 2015 being regarded as a very significant date.

Fans Can Continue Supporting the Band

I’ve said it time and time again: music streaming is a better longterm source of revenue than album sales. Spotify pays out between 0.006 and 0.008 cent per stream. It takes roughly 140 streams of a track for rights-holders to receive the same cut as they would from a single track sale.

That figure of 140 streams may sound like a lot but it actually isn’t. If you examine how you listen to music 6 Things You Can Learn From Spotify's Year in Music 6 Things You Can Learn From Spotify's Year in Music Spotify has released its Year in Music feature for 2015. It breaks down the music you listened to over the last year, and a lot more besides, as you're about to discover. Read More you’ll quickly find that over a few years you’ll be providing artists with a lot more revenue. I listened to Blink–182 a total of 829 times last year, and I’ll listen to them a similar amount this year. Over the next decade they will earn far more from me than if I’d bought all their albums just once.

One of the reasons that artists like Taylor Swift keep their most recent albums off streaming services is that they want to maximize immediate record sales and profits. They want a huge launch so they can say, “Look at how many millions of albums we have sold!”

For The Beatles, that doesn’t matter; they’re not releasing any new albums anytime soon. They’ve already sold an unimaginable number of albums. They gain little by trying to maximize short term gains. Instead, by having their music on Spotify they stand to make more money from existing fans.

My own mum has bought plenty of The Beatles’ albums but she also loves Spotify. I know how she’s going to be listening to them over the next few years and it doesn’t involve a CD player.

Having The Beatles on streaming services doesn’t just matter to new, young fans, but it lets older fans who already own all of their music continue to support their all-time favorite band.

This Gives Spotify and Friends a Boost

There’s one other big reason The Beatles making their music available on streaming services matters: it gives the services on which they’re available a huge credibility boost.

For every article I write about Spotify, one of the main criticisms that get leveled against streaming services like Spotify by readers is that there are huge gaps in their catalogs. They have a favourite artist or style of music that just isn’t available on a particular streaming service. One of the few reasons to choose Apple Music, for example, is that you get access to Taylor Swift’s music.

If The Beatles, one of the biggest artists of all time, isn’t in your library then that is one hell of a gap. Until recently, that was a gap that was on every streaming service, but now it’s closed.

It’s also a big incentive for other artists to join as well; The Beatles have made streaming services more relevant than ever. For more than 50 years, where The Beatles have led, other acts have followed. Let’s hope it continues with more artists joining streaming services as a direct result of The Beatles doing so.

Trust Us, This Matters

The Beatles joining Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services is a big deal. It represents a historic moment in the rise of streaming music, and more importantly, it matters for the band, the services, and the fans.

First, downloading is in decline and many younger listeners only listen to streaming music services. Until now, The Beatles just weren’t on their radar. That doesn’t mean they didn’t like The Beatles, just that the effort of listening to them outweighed the benefit of it. That has now changed; The Beatles will continue to be listened to and discovered by people of every age. Teenagers who’ve never thought much of their music will stumble across them on Spotify and be entranced.

Second, Spotify keeps paying out for every stream. If you’re a huge fan of The Beatles and already own every one of their albums, then you can continue to support them by streaming their music. The Beatles are never going to have another album launch so they don’t need to worry about posting big numbers, they can just coast along and enjoy the long tail of streaming revenues.

Finally, where The Beatles go, other bands will follow, just as they have always done. For Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services, this is a huge event. They can (and have) used The Beatles joining as a huge selling point. It gives them increased relevance as well; if the biggest band in the world is on your music service then it’s probably time for people to stand up and take notice.

So, to conclude, The Beatles have embraced streaming, so isn’t it about time you did the same thing? After all, they’re all either old or dead, so if they can see this is the future, surely anyone can. Even you.

What do you make of The Beatles joining Spotify, Apple Music, and the like? Are you more likely to start using one of these services now? Or do The Beatles being on these services make no difference to you? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

  1. TravellerInTime
    January 22, 2016 at 8:13 am

    The Beatles have embraced it? FFS, firstly, 2 of the Beatles are... like DEAD. Secondly, the Beatles (what's left of them and their beneficiaries) don't own the music any more. Haven't actually for years. Flogged it off for the highest dollar to the Financial Leeches.

  2. Doug
    January 15, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Believe it or not, not everyone has accessible Internet all the time, and what happens when the copyright holders decide to pull the Beatles off your streaming network (like series and movies that vanish from Netflix)? With downloadable songs, my Beatles tunes are always available! I admit that streaming is taking over, but I'm not so sure it's the best thing...

    • Harry Guinness
      January 16, 2016 at 8:46 am

      You can save songs to listen to offline with Spotify. Also, music is far less likely to be pulled than series. The licensing structure and interests of the groups is totally different. Music is about ten years ahead.

  3. likefun butnot
    January 14, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    I truly can't be bothered to care what the Beetles do or don't do. I care that streaming solutions are deeply terrible for certain types of music because the people building the schemas for music databases don't understand what the hell they're doing and thus can't possibly categorize whole genres of music properly. Not everything works like top 40 hit singles and until streaming services figure that out, they're failing at their job.

    • Harry Guinness
      January 16, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Well no. It depends on what you think their job is. If it's to cater to the 99% of people who like the music that can be easily found with Spotify's current structure then they're killing it. If it's to cater to a tiny number of awkward people... ;)

      • likefun butnot
        January 17, 2016 at 1:05 am

        @Harry Guiness,

        I am not a librarian, but I have worked with librarians. I'm not presently a DBA now, but I was in a past life and I work with several.

        So let me share something that I understand from these experiences: Organizing information can be a difficult task, but it's a lot worse when you try to use multiple organizational schemes for the same fundamental data.

        The systems that streaming music services tend to use at present mostly seems to be geared toward considering the atomic unit of organization as "the single," an approximately three minute track with a single performer, associated with an "album" that in another point in time would have been the 45 minute pressed or stamped disc recording containing that single. This probably works for about 80% of recorded pop music, but some recordings fall apart in the face of this.

        Even in pop music, it's very common to encounter things that don't align to one single:one artist:one album. We get DJ edits, radio mixes, multiple featured performers (i.e. competitors for the "artist" tag and/or a reason to make a unique entry in the Artists table for So-and-So Featuring Foo and Bar) and live recordings, all of which may or may not be recognized for what they are by poorly categorized music services.

        The best way to fix this is to categorize everything properly in the first place. If your music doesn't need to use some of those categories, great. Maybe you added a few bytes to the total size of a file. If you do need it, making your that your database can identify metadata like "performers" distinct from "artist" is hugely useful and has wide implications for the longevity of a tool or service.

        This would not be difficult, except that no one chose to do it right in the first place.

  4. pacocap
    January 14, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    This is not exactly revolutionary. All-Beatles internet radio stations have been streaming the Beatles since the earliest days of the web. And listening to a 128kbps stream doesn't come close to the experience of listening to lossless remasters. This will only be valuable in introducing current pop fans to music that changed the world from an era of change and a golden age of pop music. I think the fiasco with Apple was all Apple's fault. That it took so long is appalling. They definitely lost a large segment of the population with that move. And don't make me laugh about supporting the Beatles. They were set for life at an early age. ;)

    • Harry Guinness
      January 16, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Not legally I suspect. Similarly, claiming The Beatles were on Grooveshark doesn't mean much! You can also get 320kbs with Spotify.

      • pacocap
        January 16, 2016 at 6:29 pm

        If it were illegal, the stations would not have remained online as long as they have. I bet the 320kbps stream is not FREE. In any case, 320kbps MP3 does not begin to compare with Apple lossless or any other lossless format, even with stock earbuds.

  5. zooropean
    January 14, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    The Beatles embraced streaming because there's nothing left to sell. They've reissued everything multiple times and in multiple formats. They may come up with an occasional live recording around Christmas, but what else is left?

    • Harry Guinness
      January 16, 2016 at 8:49 am

      They had nothing left to sell 20 years ago, the timing is the important thing.

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