“No one every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” – Henry Mencken http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken

Virtually every Baby Boomer can remember purchasing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Band, circa 1967.

…and then Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Band on cassette (“A Day in the Life” sounded remarkably the same) until the tape inevitably broke.

…and then in the 1980s, Sgt. Pepper’s with a predictable marketing push was made available on CD (no more annoying scratches or broken tapes…or at least it was harder to scratch a CD).

beatlespepper

Fast forward to this week and we find out that the same boomers that bought Sgt. Pepper’s more than four decades ago on vinyl, again on cassette and still again on CD (which they may have already burned onto their iPod or MP3 player) can now download the same album or individual tracks from iTunes. http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-beatles/id136975

For those of you scoring at home, you have followed a Long and Winding Road for more than 40 years and Apple, the technology company not the record label, is now giving you the opportunity to buy the exact same music in the fourth different format. That translates into one format per decade (Can we accelerate this trend…hmmm?).

Wonder if someone will figure out how you can buy the exact same music in the fifth different format? Don’t bet against it.

Don’t get me wrong; I too am a fan of the Fab Four. Having said that I am still shaking my head about all the breathless Facebook and Twitter posts from my friends, colleagues and comrades and the plethora of related media stories about “finally” having the ability to download individual Beatles songs…the exact same songs that have been around for more than 40 years…off Apple’s iTunes website. http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-52951820101116

Why should we be surprised? Coca Cola and Pepsi taught us how to pay for what is nothing more and nothing less than free tap water (Dasani and Aquafina) just because it is packaged in easy-to-carry plastic bottles.

And who would have ever thought that we would be shelling out for three, four or five phones all at once? Someone is getting rich, but most likely it is not the “enlightened” consumer.

Besides the obvious redundancy, there is a certain sadness that comes from latent Beatlemania. The Beatles stopped touring in 1967, broke up three years later and of course, John Lennon and George Harrison, are no longer with us. So the band’s fans are left with just fading memories and the same recordings to be reproduced over and over again on whatever is the newest technology and then repackaged and remarketed (if there is such a word).

stonesconcert

An editor’s note is required here: I respect the Beatles. Having said that, I am a huge fan of the Rolling Stones www.rollingstones.com.  And yes I am guilty as well of buying Rolling Stones albums in multiple formats. The distinction is the band is still producing new material (e.g. “A Bigger Bang”) and the band reportedly will make plans in December for a worldwide tour with 67-year-old Mick Jagger strutting the stage; 66-year-old Keith Richards amplifying his signature riffs and yes, 69-year-old Charlie Watts playing the drums. The Stones will be rolling in their 50th year of existence.

“At a time when the French are griping about raising the retirement age to 62 these doughty senior citizens (Mick and Keith) are contemplating yet another world tour,” Schumpeter wrote in this week’s “The Economist.” www.economist.com S’il vous plait?

Do the Stones need the money? No. Are they assured their rightful place in musical history as one of (if not, the) greatest rock n’ roll band(s) of all time? Absolutely.

So why do they do it? Because they want to. And it will be a gift for all of us to share…You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just may find, you get what you need.

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