The Beatles’ Most Popular Streaming Tunes Will Surprise You — As Will The Story Behind Their Reluctance To Go Digital

The Beatles’ music has been streaming for the first time as of December 24, 2015, and Billboard has already taken note of the Fab Four’s most popular tunes. Despite the height of their popularity being 50 years or so in the past, 65 percent of people streaming The Beatles on Spotify are under the age of 34 — and their favorite tune is “Come Together,” both in the U.S. and globally.

The full list varies a little bit between American and non-U.S. streamers. In the U.S., the three next most popular Spotify streams are “Hey Jude,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “Let It Be.” Internationally, it’s “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” and “Love Me Do.” The Beatles broke up in 1970, but not after making a significant cultural impact — as evidenced by their popularity more than 40 years later.

Before streaming came online, Billboard compiled a list of recommended “non-singles” fans should seek out first. The list has unknowns like “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “For No One,” and “Something,” but also includes recognizable tunes like “Drive My Car,” “In My Life,” and “Here Comes the Sun.” “Sun” did make the Spotify list of most streamed in the first two days — third on the U.S. list, sixth on the non-U.S. list.

John Lennon The Beatles
The Beatles broke up in 1970. John Lennon died in 1980 and a memorial stands in Central Park, New York. Fans placed flowers on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his death in 2010. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Beatles’ entry into streaming marks the first time the bands’ music has been available outside of iTunes or physical media. The bands’ recordings have only been available on the Apple music store since 2010, following a long legal battle over the use of the name and logo “Apple.” Apple Computers, started by Steve Jobs, eventually created iTunes. Apple Corps, the publishing company, pre-dated Apple Computers, and is owned by the surviving Beatles and their families. It is a multi-media company whose primary division, Apple Records, distributes The Beatles music.

In 2006, the Beatles lost a court case to prevent Apple from using its Apple logo on iTunes, despite a settlement reached with the technology company in 1991. As a 2006 Guardian article reported, the 1991 agreement specified “fields of use,” for each company’s logo. The judge ruled iTunes did not violate the agreement, since the apple logo was used only with the online store and not the music itself.

A 2010 Guardian article revealed that iTunes became the exclusive digital carrier of The Beatles in that year. It happened a full year after the band had already remastered its catalogue and released it on CD. The iTunes agreement was only expected to last for one year; it lasted for five.

Guardian journalist Casper Llewellyn Smith speculated in that 2010 article about why The Beatles hadn’t appeared online sooner, implying the spat with iTunes was only part of the answer.

“Part of the hesitation on the Beatles’ part may have been that the band have always been heavily protective of their music, keen never to devalue the brand by giving away their songs too cheaply.”

The Beatles and Steve Jobs
The Beatles had a legal conflict with Steve Jobs over the use of the name and logo "Apple." (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

The announcement on the band’s official website listed nine services where fans could stream Beatles tunes as of 12:01 a.m. local time on December 24, 2015: Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play, Microsoft Groove, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Tidal, Slacker, and Rhapsody.

The New Zealand Herald reported a total of 50 million streams within the first 48 hours of Beatles songs being available. The Guardian reported on December 23, before streaming had started, that the band already had an official Spotify page with 1.1 million followers. Compilation tracks meant the band had already clocked in 350,000 monthly listeners.

But The Verge reported that diehard Beatles fans still have to venture to iTunes for some select titles still only available there for download. These include The Beatles Anthology, Love, Let It Be… Naked, Live at the BBC, and The Beatles in Mono. While the core of the Beatles catalogue is on the streaming services, these albums have prized outtakes (Anthology), mash-ups (Love), and early performances (BBC).

[Feature photo by Staff/Getty Images]