Why The Beatles' arrival on iTunes matters

NEW YORK - It's tempting to dismiss the Beatles' long-delayed arrival on iTunes as a non-event. After all, it's been more than seven years since iTunes began selling music. And EMI Music reissued the band's entire discography on CD barely a year ago.

Still, here are five reasons why the Beatles-iTunes deal is important:

1. Digital marketing boost for the Beatles catalog

Yes, unauthorized copies of the Fabs' music have been available for free on file-sharing networks for more than a decade. But during that time, as CD sales entered into a tailspin, iTunes emerged as the largest music retailer in the United States, topping even former market leader Walmart.

Although file-sharing continues to thrive, music retailing isn't dead. Eminem's chart-topping album "Recovery" is available everywhere on peer-to-peer networks. And yet since the album came out in June, about 728,000 U.S. consumers still chose to visit a digital retailer like iTunes and pay for it, accounting for about 25% of the album's total U.S. sales of 2.9 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

ITunes will extend the Beatles catalog's reach to a sizable new audience of online shoppers, who for the first time will be able to click, purchase and download "She Loves You," "Ticket To Ride," and other cherished titles. Troubled EMI parent Terra Firma will appreciate the new revenue stream.

2. Apple Corps drops its resistance to digital distribution

Apple Corps, which manages the Beatles' catalog, finally dipped its toe into the digital music market in late October with a reissue campaign that included a multi-artist compilation "Come And Get It" and classic albums by Badfinger, James Taylor, Billy Preston and other artists. Remarkably, they were the first Apple Records titles to be sold as both CDs and digital downloads.

Now that Apple Corps has reached a deal with iTunes on the Beatles catalog, it will hopefully pave the way for other digital products incorporating the band's music.

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