Related pages: Recommended books about The Beatles • Timeline of The Beatles main events and creative output

The Beatles
revolution in the music business

Why The Beatles?

To lift the lid on the music industry, it’s useful to read about a band you like. Any successful band will do, but The Beatles are particularly useful. Today’s music business was largely invented in the mid-Fifties and early Sixties.

In 1960 there were no record shops—you’d buy mono records at a counter in the furniture shop that sold gramophones. Although there were short-lived pop TV programmes in the late Fifties, there was no pop music radio in the UK and you could only hear chart records on the BBC. Young people endured their parents’ music to hear the occasional pop tracks on Two-Way Family Favourites (a programme for servicemen and their families) or Pick of the Pops. There were no DJs in the UK until the mid-Sixties and the best music was on Radio Luxembourg, a European AM station with very poor reception. Bands had virtually no amplification. Decent instruments were expensive and hard to find, and you couldn’t get guitar strings in most towns. There were no samplers or synthesisers. The venues were theatres, cinemas and ballrooms.

By 1970 we had stereo, Mellotrons, Moogs, Virgin, Radio One (a poor substitute for the outlawed pirate stations), music festivals, stadium rock and a sales chart where easy listening, middle of the road and musicals were rare. The Who, The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Stones, influences from the USA and many others played a part but The Beatles were central. They also covered most areas of the business: gigging and touring, recording, writing and publishing, films, merchandise and even retail.

The Beatles are probably the best documented band of all time. The press logged a huge amount of information, The Beatles and their entourage were great communicators, EMI kept very good records and researchers have spent years on the subject.

Beatles music business

Here are some of the basics of The Beatles business. I strongly recommend reading up on the band and the background. Brian Epstein wasn’t a music manager, George Martin wasn’t a pop producer, Parlophone wasn’t a pop label and Dick James was new to publishing. Some people criticise the deals they made, but experienced managers have made worse mistakes since.

The Beatles main companies

These are the main companies involved in The Beatles business in the Sixties, roughly in the order they occurred. There were many others, including several companies for their films, investments and other territories.

BusinessCompanies and deals
  • Brian Epstein signed The Beatles on 10 December 1961
  • His commission from 1 February 1962 was 10% up to £1,500 p.a. each and 15% above (Alistair Taylor)
  • NEMS Enterprises Ltd was formed on 23 June 1962—NEMS was the Epsteins’ North End Road Music Stores, Liverpool
  • A new 5 year management contract was signed on 1 October 1962 giving NEMS 25% commission
  • The Beatles were effectively without a manager from Brian’s death in 1967 to 1969
  • Allen Klein signed The Beatles (minus Paul) for 3 years on 9 May 1969 but each Beatle had separate management by 1972
  • The Beatles were rejected by EMI’s Columbia label, who had signed Cliff Richard and the Shadows
  • EMI’s junior label (Parlophone, budget and novelty) George Martin signed The Beatles on 6 June 1962
  • Royalties were a penny per double-sided record sold with a farthing increase yearly up to tuppence (George Martin)
  • George Martin was on a low salary himself and left to form an independent production company, Associated Independent Recording (AIR), in August 1965.
  • Brian Epstein signed a new world-wide 9 year contract with EMI on 27 January 1967, outrunning his own management contract which ended in October 1967 (he died in August 1967)
  • George Martin recommended Dick James (a new publisher who previously recorded for EMI) to Brian Epstein
  • Northern Songs was set up on 22 February 1963: 51% Dick James and Charles Silver, 20% each John and Paul, 9% Brian Epstein (George and Ringo had publishing on Northern Songs up to 1968 but it’s not clear how they were paid)
  • Dick James got TV and radio promotion for the band and numerous covers (2,000 of Yesterday alone)
  • The songwriting credit, originally McCartney/Lennon was changed for She Loves You to Lennon-McCartney (Ian MacDonald)
  • The publishing company Dick James Music took 10% for administration and paid 90% to Northern Songs
  • Other publishing companies were used, including Jaep jointly owned by Dick James and Brian Epstein
  • After Sgt Pepper, George and Ringo used their own publishers - Harrisongs and Startling Music
  • John and Paul continued to use Northern Songs, even on their first solo albums
  • Lenmac Enterprises Ltd, Maclen Music Ltd and other companies were set up for songwriting earnings
  • Lenmac owned some of the early copyrights and was sold to Northern Songs
  • Maclen was set up on 4 February 1965 when Northern Songs was floated
  • Maclen retains the rights to some earnings from most Lennon-McCartney compositions
  • Maclen is owned 40% by Paul, 40% by Yoko and 20% by Apple.
  • The Beatles Ltd was set up in May 1963 as the band partnership agreement for all earnings other than songwriting
  • The Beatles Ltd was owned in equal 25% shares by John, Paul, George and Ringo
  • The Beatles & Co was set up on 19 April 1967 by Brian Epstein
  • The Beatles Ltd was restructured into The Beatles & Co and Apple Corps in January 1968
  • The Beatles & Co is a private company owned in equal 5% shares by The Beatles or their estates, and 80% by Apple Corps
  • Apple Corps is a private company owned equally by The Beatles or their estates, and managed by Neil Aspinall
  • Brian Epstein delegated merchandise to lawyer David Jacobs who let exclusive rights to Nicky Byrne for 10%
  • Nicky Byrne set up two main companies - Stramsact in the UK and Seltaeb in the USA (1963)
  • In August 1964 Brian Epstein renegotiated a commission of 49%

The Beatles business in 1965

This is roughly what The Beatles business looked like in 1965 when Northern Songs was floated on the Stock Exchange.

The Beatles business in 1965

It’s hard to say exactly how the business was organised without access to financial records and contracts, so this is an informed guess. Various sources give different values, percentages and shares. This is probably down to guesswork, different viewpoints and the fact that circumstances changed over time. Shares in Northern Songs weren’t all the same type, and once trading began their value changed. Paul had more shares than John by April 1969, and it’s likely that George and Ringo had shares for their publishing up to 1968 when their contracts ended. NEMS 25% came off the top and EMI, for example, used to pay Epstein’s management commission direct.

Beatle Money has more detail about various angles but it’s not possible to reconcile all the different papers and memoirs precisely.

Northern Songs, NEMS and Apple Corps

Brian’s death left The Beatles business in disarray. He had considered selling 51% of NEMS to Robert Stigwood in March 1967 but the deal fell through and Stigwood later left NEMS (taking the Bee Gees and Cream) to form RSO. Brian had also planned for what would become Apple Corps, but legal and financial disputes resulting from his death and The Beatles’ breakup continued into the late 1980s.

 Losing Northern SongsBuying NEMSApple Corps
1965February 1965 Northern Songs was set up in 1963 and floated on the Stock Exchange in February 1965 with an issue of 5 million shares.  
1967 August 1967 Brian Epstein left NEMS (now Nemperor Holdings Ltd) to his family. Death duties were due by the end of the next financial year, 31 March 1969. Clive Epstein put NEMS up for sale, and though Brian’s management contract ran out in October 1967 he still claimed NEMS 25%. 
   December 1967 Some Apple companies started in 1967. The Apple Boutique opened on 5 December and Apple Music signed Grapefruit on 11 December. Apple Corps was finally set up in January 1968 and the other companies were re-shuffled.
1969 February 1969 EMI loaned The Beatles enough to buy NEMS but Klein dissuaded them. Clive Epstein sold control of NEMS to Leonard Richenberg (Triumph Investment Trust) on 17 February. The Beatles instructed EMI not to pay any more royalties to NEMS and Triumph sued for NEMS’ 25%.February 1969 Allen Klein (Abkco) offered to review John, George and Ringo’s finances in January. Paul declined. Abkco acted as financial adviser to the others while Paul used Linda’s father. Eastman and Eastman were appointed as Apple’s General Counsel.
 March 1969 Dick James and Charles Silver sold their share of Northern Songs to Lew Grade’s ATV Music without telling The Beatles. ATV immediately made a bid for control of Northern Songs—the offer deadline was May 1969.  
 April 1969 The Beatles rejected ATV’s offer on 10 April and made a £2 million counter-bid for Northern Songs. They had enough backing with a City consortium controlling 14% of Northern Songs, but negotiations broke down over conditions demanded by the consortium.April 1969 Klein made a deal with Richenberg (24 April) which gave The Beatles control of NEMS, Nemperor, Subafilms, and some Triumph and NEMS Northern Songs stock. Triumph’s 25% “management fee” was cut to 5% for the last 5 years of the contract from 1972 to 1976. 
 May 1969 ATV gained control on 19 May 1969. May 1969 John, George and Ringo formally appointed Allen Klein to handle their business interests and Abkco managed Apple from 8 May 1969 to 31 March 1973.
The Beatles split legal notification from John, Ringo and George to Paul

Paul agreed with winding down Apple, but held back from endorsing Allen Klein and financing the bid for Northern Songs. He didn’t approve the Phil Spector production of Let It Be and after Abbey Road had little to do with Apple until the Anthology project in the 1990s.

The Beatles albums, EPs, singles and films

Here is a simple list of Beatle record and film titles (including LPs, EPs and singles) in UK release date order. Double A sides are also shown.

1962SingleLove Me Do / P.S. I Love You5.10.62
1963SinglePlease Please Me / Ask Me Why11.1.63
 AlbumPlease Please Me22.3.63
 SingleFrom Me To You / Thank You Girl11.4.63
 EPTwist and Shout12.7.63
 SingleShe Loves You / I’ll Get You23.8.63
 EPThe Beatles’ Hits6.9.63
 EPThe Beatles (No 1)1.11.63
 AlbumWith The Beatles22.11.63
 SingleI Want To Hold Your Hand / This Boy29.11.63
1964EPAll My Loving7.2.64
 SingleCan’t Buy Me Love / You Can’t Do That20.3.64
 EPLong Tall Sally19.6.64
 FilmA Hard Day’s Night6.7.64
 AlbumA Hard Day’s Night10.7.64
 SingleA Hard Day’s Night / Things We Said Today10.7.64
 EPExtracts From The Film A Hard Day’s Night6.11.64
 EPExtracts From The Album A Hard Day’s Night6.11.64
 SingleI Feel Fine / She’s A Woman27.11.64
 AlbumBeatles For Sale4.12.64
1965EPBeatles For Sale6.4.65
 SingleTicket To Ride / Yes It Is9.4.65
 EPBeatles For Sale (No 2)4.6.65
 SingleHelp! / I’m Down23.7.65
 AlbumRubber Soul3.12.65
 SingleWe Can Work It Out / Day Tripper (double A)3.12.65
 EPThe Beatles’ Million Sellers6.12.65
 SinglePaperback Writer / Rain10.6.66
 EPNowhere Man8.7.66
 SingleYellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby (double A)5.8.66
 AlbumA Collection Of Beatles Oldies9.12.66
1967SinglePenny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever (double A)12.2.67
 AlbumSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band1.6.67
 SingleAll You Need Is Love / Baby You’re A Rich Man7.7.67
 SingleHello Goodbye / I Am The Walrus24.11.67
 EPMagical Mystery Tour8.12.67
 Film (TV)Magical Mystery Tour26.12.67
1968SingleLady Madonna / The Inner Light15.3.68
 FilmYellow Submarine17.7.68
 SingleHey Jude / Revolution30.8.68
 AlbumThe Beatles22.11.68
1969AlbumYellow Submarine17.1.69
 SingleGet Back / Don’t Let Me Down11.4.69
 SingleThe Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe30.5.69
 AlbumAbbey Road26.9.69
 SingleSomething / Come Together (double A)31.10.69
1970SingleLet It Be / You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)6.3.70
 AlbumLet It Be8.5.70
 FilmLet It Be20.5.70

There are more detailed timelines of The Beatles story and recordings here.

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Related pages: Recommended books about The Beatles • Timeline of The Beatles main events and creative output

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