Beatle Biz


Imagine there are numbers. It isn’t hard to do. 

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles received $10,000 to play on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Not bad money for fifty years ago, but this sum rests now in historical perspective as fractional in comparison to the wealth that followed for the Fab Four and related entities.

Beatles manager Brian Epstein reportedly took the Sullivan gig at an even-then relatively modest sum because he saw the marketing benefits of TV exposure as the show’s headliner.  In much the same way as Kennedy transformed the US Presidency, Epstein and the Beatles transformed rock and roll via the same media.  So be it by luck or legend, the Liverpool lads and their still prospering Apple Corps holding company took the fruits of that decision all the way to the bank…and back again.

The Ed Sullivan Show was seen by an estimated 73 million people who tuned in that night.  In a Rubik’s Cube-like system of economic justice, Forbes estimates that the band’s collective and surviving entities last year earned approximately $1 for every person who tuned in to the show. Well, not exactly but very close.  Within $2 million or so, but what’s that to the Beatles, anyway?

For, you see it’s certainly not at all been a hard day’s night that followed. Several points to consider about the economic impact of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr:

  • To date unit record sales for the Beatles are said to total 600 million.
  • US record sales of 177 million in the U.S. are 2x Michael Jackson’s and 2.5x Elton John’s & Rolling Stones’.
  • Sustained sales lift continues to benefit Hofner, Gretsch, and Rickenbacker, whose gear was favored by the boys.
  • Boundless wealth created by those who have been continue to be inspired by the Beatles to become earning musicians.
  • Apple Corps continues to earn money via media that John Lennon and even George Harrison barely knew in their lifetimes.
  •  “Yesterday” is ranked as the 4th “richest” royalty song of all time and is the 2nd most played song in radio history.
  • Paul McCartney presently grosses $4 million per city when he tours.  Ringo commands $300K per night.
  • In 2011, deceased Beatles John Lennon earned $12 million 30+ years after his death.
  • George Harrison posthumously earned $6 million last year, largely because he wrote “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”.
  • Ringo Starr is the world’s richest drummer.  Here’s this fun list.
  • iTunes now sells Beatles music after years of squabbling over the Apple name.
  • TV show “Mad Men” paid $250 million to use “Tomorrow Never Knows” on the show.
  • In 1985, Michael Jackson paid $50 million for the Lennon-McCartney song catalog and resold a 50% share to Sony for $95 million.

Whether or not you believe the Beatles launched the “British Invasion” isn’t what’s important here.  Without question, they at least prepared the beach for future arrivals and profited handsomely as a result.  Putting a price on the social and cultural transformation that followed would be much harder. Of course, this is borderline sacrilegious for the enlightened. That’s not what this is about.  It’s about bringing business to life.

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