Beatles Songs Released As Ringtones on iTunes

By Dan Rys, New York, Billboard Magazine

The Beatles have a history of making people wait for digital access to their music; long after just about every band had succumbed to the digital age by making their catalogs available online, the Beatles finally signed a contract – and an exclusive one at that – with iTunes to have their albums and singles available in the iTunes Store in November of 2010.

Now another barrier has been broken down, though perhaps a bit too late; the sound of the Beatles can now be the sound of your ringtone.

Today, the iTunes store that still owns the exclusive digital rights to the band’s catalog over a year after its debut has released the 27 songs that comprise the Beatles’ 1 compilation as 30-second ringtone clips, available for $1.29 (which is also the price of the full song).

While this is great news for everyone who wants to hear the classic number ones any time the phone rings, it may have come too late to capitalize on the ringtone craze. The Hot Ringtones chart debuted in 2004, but the phenomenon has been declining since smart phones and ringtone-making apps have made it easier to create individualized ringtones or to avoid paying for the 30-second clips.

The Beatles’ debut on iTunes in late 2010 made waves for its sales at the time, and while ringtones have faded in significance, the market still produces about $2.2 billion in revenue, according to a 2011 study by Gartner. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that consumers would feel fine with coughing up a dollar or so to get the band on their phones, but it may be that the Beatles’ tendency to embrace the digital realm at a slower pace than the rest could cost them.