Erm, so The Beatles didn't storm the charts then? I told you so. 3 years ago.

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 23 November 2010

It isn't very often I get to write "Here is something I blogged three years ago, and it has been proved right"...but..."Here is something I blogged three years ago, and it has been proved right".

Yes, in the midst of a previous bout of speculation about Beatles digital releases, I wrote that, based on the track record of the 1987 CD reissues, the band were unlikely to clog the upper reaches of the charts. So I could feel pretty smug as the world's press turned from Apple launch event inspired "it is the digital second coming" hyperbole to a collective 'meh' when nothing from the band breached the top forty.

Actually, what interests me now is not the chart positions, but the actual number of sales. If you look at what else is knocking around the lower reaches of the iTunes top 200, you have to wonder how many digital units are being shifted of individual tracks at all.

How many people in the UK can have woken up last week and realised that their music collection was incomplete without "Sex on fire" by Kings Of Leon, or any three of Cheryl Cole's last singles? Or the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" or Happy Mondays' "Step on"? All are lurking in the low 100s, between the newly digitally-issued Beatles tracks. The Human League's first single for 9 years came out on Monday to barely any fanfare, and already it is outselling several of the Beatles tracks that were meant to logjam the top twenty.

The truth seems to be that nowadays 'the digital long tail' in the music singles charts genuinely starts just below the top forty.

8 Comments

Not sure it's too surprising to see many of those other tracks floating around the low 100s - I don't know about Sex On Fire, but the other tracks have pretty high profile prompts to buy them currently doing the rounds. Cheyl Cole's on X Factor, Shaun Ryder's on I'm A Celeb (probably the first time many younger viewers would have heard of him), and Gimme Shelter is used in the trailer for Call Of Duty: Black Ops (ditto).

It seems like the beatles coming to itunes was about two years too late. They should have released the music around the same time Rock band:Beatles came out. Maybe then would their music have climbed up itunes. Don't get me wrong I am a beatles fan and already had all of their music.

Ooooo Waka Waka! thanks for reminding me, got to dash off to itunes and buy that asap!

Stay by shakespere sister - that cheryl girl did it on xfactor - seems like it helps get some sales!

I bet Chesney Hawkes is sitting at home with Yazz and the plastic population going "please do our song on x factor pleeeaaassee!"

I'm not too surprised about the high position of some of the other tracks, but I would say that the Beatles tracks have had a pretty high profile position, too. Cheryl Cole may be on X Factor, but just last week X Factor featured all of the contestants singing Beatles songs! Wonder if they'll get a bump.

Surely the illegally accessible ways of downloading music from the net comes into play here? Mainstream pop is catchy but I can not see many wanting to purchase the odd song from the likes of which you have mentioned. Especially when they can search for a free mp3 off the web.

I wonder if their songs are a bit too old for the "nostalgia effect". People in their 60's and 70's are not big purchasers of music, although I may be wrong on this.

If the releasing of the albums had been staggered to one per week, they would have concentrated sales of individuals songs/albums into each week's chart slot. However by releasing them all at once (around 300 songs) meant that the sales would be too widely distributed to have any decent impact on the charts. They also would have been able to spin the PR and any halo effect on CD sales over a longer period.

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