Nine years after the advent of iTunes and seven days after the Beatles finally embraced digital music, the first-week sales of the Fab Four's MP3 catalog have been revealed, and holy cow, the Beatles beat Kanye West! Well, not really, but sort of. With 450,000 albums and two million songs sold in their first week, the Beatles' entire catalog combined will probably outsell West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" on iTunes, but the Greatest Band in Music History needed 15-plus albums last week to surpass what Kanye's new disc will do on iTunes this week. Like many others, The Amp was initially skeptical about the impact the Beatles would have on iTunes, but we and all other critics of the too-late addition of the Beatles to Apple's industry-leading music service have been proven wrong.
On one hand, the totals are impressive: By selling 450,000 albums in one week, it's safe to assume the Beatles probably sold over three times as many albums on iTunes as every artist and band that predates the 1990s combined (the Vince Guaraldi Trio's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and Arlo Guthrie's Thanksgiving favorite "Arlo's Restaurant" are the only other pre-1970 albums to penetrate iTunes Top 100). In case historians needed more concrete proof that the Beatles were the best ever, they now have it. As Billboard points out, compared to old school acts like Led Zeppelin who also held-out-from-but-ultimately-embraced-iTunes, the Beatles' sales were even more remarkable: Zep sold 300,000 tracks combined in their first week, whereas the Fab Four hit two million. However, considering that a chart-topping single in 2010 will sell roughly 200,000 downloads in a week by itself, the Beatles' hundreds of songs going double platinum combined loses some of its luster when stacked against the Hot 100 crowd.
Perhaps the best sign for the Beatles and iTunes is that the Fab Four catalog continues to sell decently over a week after the novelty of the Beatles coming to iTunes has worn off. At press time, three Beatles albums rank among the iTunes Top 30, led by "Abbey Road" at Number 14, a noteworthy feat considering all those major Black Friday releases that were released this Monday. "Here Comes the Sun" shockingly remains the highest-selling Beatles track, but currently only at Number 77 on the iTunes Songs chart. However, two million song downloads, at $1.29 a pop, comes out to $2.58 million. Apple only gets to keep roughly a tenth of that as the digital middleman, with the rest going to EMI (who needed this cash badly) and the Beatles. Apple has also promoted the hell out of their exclusive Beatles digital catalog, including commercial spots during last Sunday's football games. So it's unclear just how lucrative the Beatles/iTunes marriage is, but the Fab Four have once again proven there's an insatiable thirst for their music, no matter what the medium.