I’ve never been a Beatles fanatic. I like a lot of their music, but I’ve never owned a single track. I’m not completely sure why this is, though I could go into each music-buying phase of my life and come up with reasons. Lately, the biggest reason is that I primarily purchase individual tracks and The Beatles weren’t sold that way. Until now.
As is presumably widely known, as of this past Tuesday, The Beatles has come to iTunes. I was happy that this had finely happened as I’ve been paying attention during the long process that led up to this moment. When The Beatles Box Set came out last September, I had fully expected it to be on iTunes as well. I was disappointed when that didn’t happen. Now, 14 months later, it has.
While I was tempted to purchase the box set last year, or at least put it on my wish list, the value just wasn’t strong enough for me. I really wanted to be able to pick-and-choose the songs I wanted. Now that I have that option, it’s somewhat comical how tempted I was to simply click the “BUY ALBUM” button for the entire box set. I resisted this impulse and I’m glad I did. It turns out that it would have been a mistake for several reasons.
First, it’s overpriced. The physical version, which has the technical advantage of higher quality (though I doubt I’d ever notice) along with the ease of having backups for the ripped music rather than having to burn backups of the downloaded music, is $20 cheaper.
Second, the mono versions of the songs are not included in the iTunes box set. In fact, they aren’t available at all on iTunes. I’m not going to go into the details, but many people strongly prefer the mono versions of the early Beatles songs over the stereo versions.
Third, and perhaps most significant, is that the whole reason I was waiting for The Beatles to be available digitally was so that I could buy just the songs I wanted. To give up that flexibility on impulse would be silly.
So, now what? Many readers may not be surprised that the answer involves a spreadsheet. I went through the entire song listing for the box set, by album, and rated each track as either “Yes”, “Maybe”, “Meh”, “No” or “Dup”. “Yes” means that I’d buy the song for iTunes $1.29 price. “Maybe” means that I wouldn’t buy the individual song, but I’d appreciate it on an album. “Meh” means that I don’t really care, but there is some chance that getting the song on an album and listening to it repeatedly would result in it growing on me. “No” is obvious and “Dup” means that the song was on an earlier album in what I think is a mostly similar version.
Building this spreadsheet took a while as it included listening to at least some portion of the 30-second preview for a majority of the songs. But it’s done. The rest is just math. Here’s the data:
|Magical Mystery Tour||7||2||2|
|Let It Be||5||5||2|
|A Hard Day’s Night||5||6||2|
|Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band||11||2|
|Beatles For Sale||2||6||6|
|Please Please Me||6||2||5||1|
|With The Beatles||4||7||3|
|The Beatles (White Album)||5||15||10|
The first thing that jumps out at me is that I clearly have a bias in favor of Sgt. Pepper. I have a theory that my father played this album a lot when I was at a particular age. Now, at $1.29 per “Yes” song and half price per “Maybe” song, the only albums that are definitely worth (to me) their (iTunes) cost are Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, with Rubber Soul being “close enough”. On the other hand, the entire collection comes close to being worthwhile. Switch to the $130 physical media price and it’s a done deal.
There’s still the issue of mono versus stereo. Investigating the mono version of the box set a bit further and it turns out that it doesn’t include Abbey Road or Let It Be. Instead, it includes both mono and stereo versions of Help! and Rubber Soul. I find this a bit odd, but what can you do? (Note that it’s also missing Yellow Submarine, though all of the songs are actually present on other albums, just not the musical score from the movie.)
Taking away my computed value of Abbey Road and Let It Be leaves the total just $13.50 short of Amazon’s price for the mono box set. Close enough, particularly including the fact that the mono versions aren’t available individually.
That’s it, then. Get the mono box set, plus Abbey Road, plus the 5 Let It Be songs I want. For the supremely curious, the 5 “Maybe” songs on Let It Be that I’ll be missing out on in order to save $6.54 are Two of Us, Dig a Pony, Maggie Mae, I’ve Got a Feeling, and For You Blue.
Of course, I really feel like I should leave the mono box set on my wish list until after Christmas. So, for now, I guess I’ll just buy Abbey Road for now. Oh, wait… would you look at that. Abbey Road and Let It Be are both available on Amazon for $7.99. That makes Let It Be worthwhile. I guess it’s Amazon all the way.
Thanks for nothing, Apple.