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Business

New Book Tells How the Beatles Changed the Music Biz Forever

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Hundreds of books have been written about the Beatles. But almost none of those books had much to say about the earth-shaking impact the band had on the music business. But now a new book by a Florida State University professor corrects that oversight.

For Sam Staley, the director of FSU's DeVoe Moore Center, this is not his first literary venture.

"My current book is 'The Beatles and Economics,' but before this I was looking at film and I've done a lot of work in tax incentives in various industries and I'm also interested in the cultural impact of these things and how they form our value system."

What attracted Staley to the Beatles, was how the seismic impact of the band on the entire business of music.

"It truly was transformative! It changed everything! We look at popular music in 1967 and it's fundamentally different from what it was in 1963."

In 1963, the largest record companies, such as Decca and EMI in England and Capitol, RCA and Columbia in the United States, controlled every facet of the artists' performance, from the songs they sang to the musicians who played on the records. The Beatles, asserted Staley, helped put the artists in charge of those decisions, although they weren't alone in that endeavor.

"We also had the Beach Boys, which were emerging before the Beatles in the U.S. that were doing a lot of it. And then you also had a lot of the songwriting that was going on in black music at the time, particularly in blues and jazz. Don't underestimate that as not only an influence on the Beatles, but as a more organic way of transforming the industry."

Still, Staley was quick to point out it was the Beatles, by virtue of not only their fantastic creativity, but also the clout conferred by their globe-girdling popularity and resulting cash flow, that was the prime mover of change.

"If the Beatles had flooped commercially, a lot of these other bands simply would have been little niche bands and continue to do little gigs here and there and it never would have taken off the way it did. And the risks the Beatles took in the studio and their ability to monetize it through the market, created an incalculable state for other bands to do the same."

What was the total fiscal impact of this change?

"I'm not even sure there is a good number for how important that is, other than the fact that literally billions of dollars have been monetized in new genres that were created and then facilitated and then catalyzed by the effect of the Beatles."

That effect, explained Staley, led to an explosion of musical creation: new artists and new sounds supported by oceans of cash from the big record companies from the late sixties through the mid-1990s. Staley said his book, "The Beatles and Economics," is essentially a scholarly textbook that reads more like a fast-paced documentary.

"It's available for pre-order on Routledge's website. Or you can go to my personal website: samuelrstaley.com they can find that information, too. It's sometimes a surprise of what you actually create. So the market is actually to get into introductory economics and entrepreneurship classes to engage students in ways that are unusual."

And for any real Beatles fan, it provides a new context to reaffirming just how important the "Four Lads From Liverpool" really were and continue to be.