Commentary

Sony Signs Deal To Peddle Beatles' Merchandise, Starting With NYC Pop-Up

As branded merchandise becomes more critical to musicians’ -- and their estates’ -- financial well-being, Sony Music Entertainment’s The Thread Shop has signed a deal with Apple Corp. to be the exclusive North American provider of Beatles’ memorabilia.

“Sony plans to open a pop-up store next week in New York City that will showcase new apparel designs, toys and other Beatles-branded products, including turntables and a pinball machine,” reports  Anne Steele for The Wall Street Journal in breaking the story.

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“The sale of branded merchandise -- from sweatshirts and T-shirts to fanny packs and beanies -- has grown in importance for many artists in recent years,” she writes.

“As sales of recorded music decline, replaced by less-profitable streaming, artists have looked to offset the revenue shortfall with touring and merchandise sales. With rising demand for such novelties, artists have been tying the sale of a CD or digital download to those items in an effort to boost their position on the Billboard 200 album chart. Those so-called bundles have led to what some in the industry call skewed chart results by reflecting fans’ desire for memorabilia rather than for an album,” Steele adds.

The pop-up shop will be open Dec. 11 through Dec. 22 at a yet-to-be revealed location. But that’s just the opening chord.

“New merchandise from The Beatles will be made available across The Thread Shop’s network of major retail chains and independent retailers. The Thread Shop will also operate The Beatles North America direct-to-consumer commerce site, usastore.thebeatles.com,” Murray Stassen writes   for Music Business Worldwide.

“The Beatles’ North American merchandise license had been held since 2013 by Bravado, a subsidiary of Vivendi’s VIVHY Universal Music Group. Bravado, the dominant player in the market, has around $300 million in annual revenue. Joe Marziotto, who was previously vice president of brand marketing at Bravado, will join Thread Shop as vice president, licensing and marketing,” Rob Lenihan reports for The Street.

“Other Thread Shop artist partners include Bob Dylan, Camila Cabello, DJ Khaled, Led Zeppelin, Lil Nas X, Maluma, Ozuna, P!nk, Shania Twain and Zayn,” reports  Billboard's Tatiana Cirisano.

“The Beatles are considered the top-selling act in music history, with more than 800 million albums sold globally. Before they broke up in 1970, the band earned an Academy Award and seven Grammys (along with a Grammy lifetime achievement award), and their recordings have been certified platinum many times over, among other accolades. But a merch deal with Sony is a sign of the times,” observes Lisette Voytko for Forbes.

And a sign that the band plays on.

“The Beatles remain an unmatched cultural force in our society. Their revolutionary achievements continue to inspire artists and thinkers across borders, cultures, and generations. We are tremendously honored that they have entrusted The Thread Shop with their iconic brand, and we look forward to sharing their extraordinary vision with fans,” states Richard Story, president, Commercial Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, in a news release about the deal.

Fans looking to give a gift a bit more impressive than a Fab Four T-shirt this season, might consider bidding on Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s copy of the band’s 1962 audition tape for Decca Records. It’s part of an online auction Sotheby’s will run starting tomorrow.  

Under the new management of Epstein, “the yet-to-be discovered band recorded 15 songs for the record company during the Jan. 1 [1962] session, including ‘Money,’ ‘The Sheik of Araby,’ ‘Like Dreamers Do,’ 'Three Cool Cats,’ and ‘September in the Rain,’” Jennifer Tzeses writes  for MarketWatch

Decca passed on the audition, “in part because of the quality of the demo and the fact that the record company didn’t want the inconvenience of having to transport the band from Liverpool to London, according to Epstein,” Tzeses adds. 

That plus, as an AFP Relax News story relates , “in his autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise …, Epstein recalled that Decca’s senior A&R Dick Rowe assured him at the time that ‘guitar bands are out.’” 

But Epstein used the recording to peddle the band to other labels and the Beatles were eventually signed by producer George Martin’s EMI subsidiary Parlophone.

 The rest, as they say, has been Beatlemania.

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