The Beatles will get a little help from new corporate friends on Sept. 9 when EMI Music embarks on the global launch of its digitally remastered Beatles catalog on CD to coincide with the release of videogame The Beatles: Rock Band.
It will be hard to miss the push this fall as Restoration Hardware, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Ralph’s, Pathmark, 7-Eleven and Blockbuster all promote the CD collection.
The label sees the move as a chance to use an artist with major muscle to open up new channels for the sales of CDs since record stores are becoming about as extinct as the 8-track tape. The Beatles—a notable holdout on iTunes—have the broad appeal that opens retail doors.
“It will allow us to reach the everyday places people shop,” said Bill Gagnon, svp, catalogue marketing for EMI Music North America. “We’re bringing the music to where they are.”
With one Beatle boot in the retail door, EMI sees a possible inroads for a roster that includes Coldplay, the Beastie Boys and the White Stripes along with classic artists such as Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. Gagnon is currently approaching food, drug, mass and other alt-retailers with the Now That’s What I Call Music! brand. “But it still needs to be a pretty significant project to get these outlets’ attention,” he explained.
Terry Dry, president of Los Angeles-based new media marketing agency Fanscape, said such retail outlets are a great channel for the label. “The Internet’s the ultimate distribution mechanism, but [labels] haven’t quite figured out how to monetize that well or how to still sell their shiny plastic discs. When you look at a place like a 7-Eleven or a supermarket where you can get that impulse buyer who’s spending $100 on groceries, they might buy the Beatles remastered instead of US Weekly. EMI also has the Beach Boys and Sinatra and some pretty cool catalog stuff that makes sense to that shopper. My mother hasn’t totally figured out her iPod yet.”
Anticipated as one of the largest music marketing and merchandising events ever, 9/9/09 will unleash an Apple Corps avalanche: the 14 remastered Beatles CDs (both stereo and mono versions), the Rock Band game and gear, and a slew of fan fare brokered by licensing agency Live Nation Merchandise, ranging from Beatles guitar straps (Planet Waves) to vintage-style tees. Apple Corps oversees the Beatles’ business assets. On the retail side, the promotional plans include:
• Restoration Hardware will showcase the full range of remastered discs along with the limited edition $89.99 Box of Vision tabletop CD display unit and book, The Beatles: Rock Band, USAopoly’s Beatles-themed Trivial Pursuit game, and other Beatles booty in a Fab Four-furnished living room. The Beatles will meet the cover of Restoration Hardware’s holiday catalog, too, said Steve Glasenk, vp-licensing, Live Nation Merchandise.
• Starbucks will offer four of the remastered EMI Beatles titles throughout September—Abbey Road, Help, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul—which will be the sole music offerings at the coffee chain during the month.
• Target and Best Buy will build Beatles boutiques within stores to showcase the music, the licensed lifestyle product and the MTV Games-produced/Electronic Arts-distributed game.
Retail exclusives abound: Bloomingdale’s will sell a high-end edition of Rock Band featuring replicas of John’s and George’s guitars and Paul’s bass in their very own travel cases. Best Buy will run a midnight sales promotion and sell a crate that contains a T-shirt and a CD.
Retail strategies aside, Paul et al. might wanna set their bets on The Beatles: Rock Band driving multigenerational music sales. “It’s going to do really well through the holidays,” Dry predicted of the Harmonix Music Systems-designed game.
He adds, “Little kids will wanna hear Beatles music in their cars. I think it’s going to surprise people how big it is. They already think it’s going to be big, and it’s going to be even bigger.”