It wasn’t exactly an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” but the Beatles’ debut at iTunes made waves on Tuesday.

The news brought out commentary all across the Internet, much of it negative. Many people dismissed the value of adding vintage -- albeit still popular and relevant -- catalog to the world’s biggest music store. The timing of the event was seen by some to be years too late. Others pointed out that the digital tracks can be acquired (illegally) elsewhere by anybody with only the slightest interest in looking.

One sentiment in particular was that labels need to reach out to young fans rather than their grandparents. While it may be true that music companies need to better target youth culture, especially how they listen to music, here are a couple points worth considering.

First, the record business is not a zero-sum game. Labels are indeed reaching out to young consumers. Take a look at the pop charts and you’ll see just as much youth as ever. Just because labels have active catalog departments doesn’t mean they’re not also actively signing and developing new artists. How they embrace new business models and new forms of experiencing that music is a totally different issue. Even so, just because EMI added the Beatles to iTunes does not mean the company diverted valuable resources from business development tasks.

Second, today’s youths may like the Beatles' music more than their parents and older siblings. This can be seen in a new Edison Research study of 12- to 24-year-olds. In 2000, the age group’s top 10 artists included Eminem, Limp Bizkit and Backstreet Boys. In 2010, the top 10 included Eminem, Taylor Swift and, perhaps surprisingly, the Beatles (at No. 7). Chalk it up to YouTube or P2P, but kids today probably care more about the Beatles than similarly aged kids 10 and 20 years ago.
In light of this, it’s probably a pretty good time to put the Beatles on iTunes. Christmas gift card season is coming up soon and young Americans will be buying a lot of downloads.

Here’s a sample of online reaction to today’s Beatles news:

-- paidContent: “[W]hile the rereleases will likely contribute worthwhile sales to iTunes Store, and incremental licensing income to troubled EMI, the net boost mat not be as great as it could have been had it come when pent-up demand was even more evident, two years earlier, and before that demand was satisfied by 2009’s remasters.”

-- MediaMemo: “If you really want to gripe, here’s something: Apple (and/or the band) doesn’t know how to handle the mini-songs on the second half of “Abbey Road” and has made the silly decision to sell them as individual tracks. So if you really want to hear all 23 seconds of “Her Majesty,” but you don’t want to buy the whole album, you’ve got to shell out $1.29. But whatever. Buy the whole album.”

-- Forrester’s Mark Mulligan: “Thank goodness that is out of the way; now we can focus on important developments. The fact that securing the content of a band old enough to be most young music fans’ grandfathers (and some) is a sad reflection of the state of the digital music market. The digital music market (and the young music fans that record labels desperately need to get engaged) needs new music products, not yesteryear’s hits repackaged.”

-- The Guardian: “The Beatles have been held out as the pinnacle that online music stores want as the songs to sell -- yet if someone really wants them on their iPod, they can go and buy the CD in a shop and just rip it (and get it in better quality to boot). Is there anyone left who wants the songs yet doesn't have them?”

-- Vanity Fair: “In the wake of Facebook’s re-revolutionary e-mail/instant message/SMS service, the addition of the Fab Four to iTunes may disappoint customers hoping for a more technologically exciting revelation…Others among us, however, will be relieved that Apple’s announcement contains no promises about a forthcoming product customers are destined to love. Instead, it is simply a promise to provide access to something we know we already adore.”

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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