Why The Beatles Embraced Streaming and Why You Should Too

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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, Adele, and Taylor Swift again 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 — 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, 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. 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. 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 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 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.

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