Why the Beatles [and the KLF] Are Letting Down a Generation

Jeffrey A. By Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire Comment

In which Martin Bryant shows me why I don’t hum any Beatles tunes anymore.

The Beatles were still on the radio when I was a kid. We had two or three of their albums on our shelf. I really liked a lot of their songs. Now? Frankly, I never hear them. Why? Maybe it’s because like so many people nowadays, I mostly listen to streamed music and they’re not there.

Yes, the Beatles‘ music has a special place in music history but now that much of their output is FIFTY years old, the multi-millionaires who guard the band’s estate (including surviving members Paul and Ringo) should embrace its place cultural history and make it available where people – especially young people who are exploring pop history for the first time – can easily access it. – Martin Bryant

The KLF isn’t there either, but the apparently tortured geniuses behind the KLF removed their catalog from sale altogether in 1992; a move not unknown in the history of Western art and music. I am just glad I have a couple of their CDs that I picked up when they blew my mind just in time for me to still find them in stores.

My mental juggling act here:

  • Should artists have control of their output and œuvre? Yes, mostly, probably, yes.
  • Should we strive to preserve humanity’s cultural heritage and make it available now and for future generations? Absolutely, yes.
  • Should copyright extend decades beyond an artist’s death? No, but that is a different conversation.
  • Should contemporary profit motivation trump our ability to preserve and archive our cultural heritage, for example with DRM and ill-conceived copyright legislation? No, but we have yet to find a good balance between benefitting artists, corporate interests, and the non-monetary value of our cultural artifacts.
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