Wow. For a minute there, I was pretty excited about the big iTunes announcement that’s coming up in a couple of hours. With all the tech/media irons that Apple’s got in the fire with the iPad, AppleTV, the new iOS 4.2, and a big, cloud-ready data center ready to go in North Carolina, I naturally assumed that the announcement would have something to do with, you know, computers or something that would help drive the conversation about modern media consumption in a brand new direction.
Instead, according to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal,Billboard, and pretty much everyone else on the Internet, the big reveal is gonna be that the Beatles are gonna be on iTunes. Which is, of course, the exact opposite of a brand new direction. It’s also the exact opposite of a big deal. With Mog, Rdio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm, Netflix, Hulu, GoogleTV and the Boxee Box breathing down Apple’s neck, and dozens of unfulfilled content deals flapping in the breeze (witness the anemic selection of books in the iBookstore and the paltry few television shows available for 99-cent rental on the AppleTV), it’s astounding that the company has focused its famed PR firepower on the fact that a dozen four-decade-old albums are gonna suddenly be available for purchase.
The obvious gripe here is that, if you want the Beatles in your iTunes library, you’ve already got them there, whether by ripping your own CDs or stealing them; the Surviving Two and the Widows of the Good Ones have kept this material from digital marketplaces for so long that longtime fans have had to resort to Whatever Means Necessary to have the music. It’s the same tactic that the record industry has taken to digital availability in general (witness: those dozens of unfulfilled content deals!), and it’s the very approach that’s bitten them in the ass. The only people who are excited about being able to FINALLY one-click-purchase the Beatles catalog are people who are Very Very Old. The Baby Boomers. The same people who have kept a stranglehold on our popular culture for … oh, just about four decades. The same people who have kept a new (old) Bruce Springsteen album in the media for weeks. The same people who continue to talk about Bob Dylan as if there are still people who need convincing. The same people who gave Neil Young a pass for that horrendous piece of shit album he just released.
News flash: The Baby Boomers are on the cusp of being in retirement homes; they all already qualify for AARP membership. THEY ARE OLD, and they should not be allowed to define the culture. They had their chance; it’s someone else’s turn. (Really Boomers, can you imagine if, in 1969, Rolling Stone – when it was good – yammered on and on about some Paul Whiteman Orchestra reissues? THIS IS THE SAME THING.) Yet, just like crazed right-wingers who whinge about the “liberal media” that just happens to be 85% owned by pro-Republican corporations, these oldsters bang their drum about how contemporary media ignores them even when their culture is just so great and classic and awesome, but yet Keith Richards’ new book is inescapable and the digital availability of the Beatles’ albums is front-page news.
Really, just shut up already. You are old, and while you easily embrace one part of what that means (“Back in the day, things were better”), you don’t accept the other part (“Time for me to get out of the way because I don’t have any new ideas”). This backward-thinking, this nostalgia for some nonexistent halcyon era is warm and comforting, yes (I know, because … GO ’80s!!!!), but Boomers have an outsized representation in the culture industry, and all this backward-looking is literally destroying that industry. The Beatles on iTunes are a tiny, tiny example, but illustrative of how this group is attempting to apply old models to a new paradigm and it just does not work. Record companies and movie studios and television networks can no longer squeeze every last dime of revenue out of the material they’ve helped to produce because once it’s out in the world, it’s out in the world. Yet they think they can, so they play hardball at every last opportunity, stifling innovation at every turn and ultimately turning a good chunk of the people who are potentially their best customers into the very people who wind up “stealing” from them the most.
So instead of “iTunes in the cloud” (which, technically, I’m still holding out hope for in today’s announcement), a development that would not only be awesome – all your music, movies, and TV shows available on any device at any time – but also encourage a lot of people to spend a lot of money on “content,” we’re gonna get a dozen four-decade-old albums on iTunes. Yawn. Wake me when the Early Bird Special is over.
(Oh, and that post title? I don’t actually want anyone to die; my parents are Baby Boomers, so that would be an awful thing to say.)
Originally appeared at OrlandoWeekly.com.