The TV ads have begun for the 2017 Grammy awards, and all the usual suspects are being mentioned: Adele, Beyonce, Drake etc. But there’s added interest for us Beatles fans as Eight Days a Week is nominated for Best Music Film, and the reissue of Paul’s Tug of War album is up for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package. Hardly a year goes by when The Beatles are not recognised by the industry in some way, which just goes to show how relevant they continue to be.
The music industry has changed a lot over the years. Digitisation has changed the way we consume music, and that has affected sales and chart placings. In the age of downloads and streaming, artists who used to sell millions of records are finding it increasingly difficult because it’s now much easier for people to avoid paying for the music they listen to. On top of this, attention spans seem to be shorter. This obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but in many cases, younger music fans are more interested in singles than albums. I’ve spoken to a number of people who say that they can’t actually remember the last time they listened to an album, which is quite sad to hear.
Yet, despite all of this, The Beatles still manage to fit into today’s music industry. It’s remarkable that a band who broke up over forty years ago have managed to retain their popularity through all kinds of musical trends. They’ve never been seen as ‘uncool’ by the general music-buying population, and artists from countless genres have always spoken of their love and respect for them. No matter what happens to be ‘current’ at any given time, the impact and importance of The Beatles has never waned — in fact, because of this, you could say they are still ‘current’.
Leaving aside the obvious brilliance of the music itself, how have they stayed this way? Those involved with the band and their legacy have simply adapted to all those industry changes along the way. Take Spotify, for example. When The Beatles’ back catalogue was finally made available to stream, it was a big deal. And according to this report, they had 6.5 million listeners in each of the first three months of streaming, with 67 per cent of listeners being under the age of 35. That tells you something about how much The Beatles mean to younger generations.
Prior to that, there was huge excitement when the albums were remastered in 2009. It was almost like we were hearing the music, fresh, all over again. And not only that; the BBC had a week of fantastic Beatles programmes to mark the occasion. Everybody was talking about The Beatles that week. For most other artists, remastered albums would only be of real significance to their hardcore fanbase. But with The Beatles, it was a major event.
The fact that Eight Days a Week is up for a Grammy also indicates that retellings of The Beatles’ story have helped keep the legacy alive. Fans will never tire of films, books and TV/radio programmes about The Beatles. We look forward to them in much the same way that we would look forward to new music being released, and they also help introduce the band to another generation. The Anthology project was a great example of this, and in fact we did get new music out of it when Paul, George and Ringo teamed up to work on demos that John had left behind.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the popularity of live music; in fact, an artist’s success probably depends on it more now than ever before. But even though The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 — meaning only lucky first-generation fans actually got to see them — there are still ways we can experience their music live. Both Paul and Ringo are still musically active, and there are quite possibly thousands of Beatles tribute bands from all over the world who specialise in recreating the atmosphere of Beatlemania onstage. And plenty of them do a fantastic job. There is clearly a huge demand for them.
The Beatles retained their popularity from their first hit to their last days together as a band. The world revolved around their music for eight years, and that never wavered. In the decades since, the world has remained firmly in love with them. That’s why, no matter how many changes the music industry goes through, and whichever stars come and go, The Beatles will always have their part to play.