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Can't buy me love: Epstein, The Beatles and Panorama

Even though the UK music industry is enjoying the growth of digital download sales - up 56% in 2009 from the previous year - the continued collapse in CD sales (down 3.5% in the same period) and of course concerns over the rapid growth in the illegal download market has much of the industry worried. Very worried.

As Panorama reported this week, the UK music industry claims it is currently losing £200 million a year to unlawful filesharing and downloads and is a major supporter of the government's Digital Economy Bill, currently passing through Parliament.

The bottom line is that the music industry is a very lucrative market. It certainly has been since the rock 'n' roll boom of the 1950s and the birth of the teenager with a few shillings in their pocket.

That market exploded in the early 1960s with the arrival of the Beatles. In little over a year, the Fab Four became a worldwide phenomenon, spawning 'Beatlemania' and a string of hit 45s and long-players. Kids, ask your parents what a 'long-player' is. And for that matter a '45'.

Panorama caught up with the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, in spring 1964 to ask him about what it took to be a success in the music industry and of course his relationship with and management of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

You can watch an abridged version of the film here:

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It's a fascinating period piece in which a few of things stand out - firstly, how Panorama sees the pop business as particularly fickle - probably correct on that score - and hinting at its lack of longevity as an industry - the sustained success of the Beatles almost 50 years on disproving that theory.

Epstein's candid - without being explicit - answers to Michael Charlton's questions about his percentage cut of the Beatles' earnings tell of a more innocent time as do the insights from the Evening Standard journalist Maureen Cleave into the Beatles' deferential respect towards Epstein.

Just a shame Panorama couldn't negotiate access to film the Beatles themselves - but Epstein obviously knew the value of 'his boys'.

The music industry's current worry is that in the file-sharing, easily available, super broadband future it can remain a very lucrative market for the next 50 years, even if in the words of the Beatles 'money can't buy me love...'.


  • Comment number 1.

    Why do such programmes let the greedy copyright exploiters pretend they lose a single penny from filesharing? It plain is not true. They can not LOSE anything they did not have!

    ALL filesharing for private use should be legal.

    The only law that needs changing is the copyright law. No personal use copying should ever be in any way illegal. All copyright law should do is prevent commercial gain from other's one time, ages ago, few minutes work.

    The dinosaurs both in the exploiters of copyright, and the Neanderthal governing class need to realise that the abuse of exploiting copyright is going to have to be ended. Get rid of it. Rip of is over. ALL files are now free adverts, and the concept of paying a thing for anything that can be file shared will soon be as ludicrous as paying to watch adverts.

    Do not want the free adverts of being copied, then do not record! Play live only. Work every time for any pay, not once in fifty years!


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