Today's arrival of The Beatles on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Tidal, and everywhere else marks a huge moment for streaming music. The band's discography, from Please Please Me up through Let It Be is finally available on demand. A few compilations like Past Masters, 1962 - 1966, and 1967 - 1970 are also available to stream. The highlight among these, I'd say, is the greatest hits collection, 1, which was just remastered this year at Abbey Road Studios. The new mixes sound better than ever. Put on some headphones and just try to disagree with me.
But if you're a big Beatles fan, you might notice that several things are missing from today's big album drop. I expect it's only a matter of time before these releases follow the big ones to streaming, but for now, you've still got to buy them from iTunes if you want digital copies. Let's go over what's not yet on Spotify or any of the other eight services that now offer The Beatles:
The Beatles Anthology (Now streaming as of April 2016)
This is the big one. The Beatles Anthology is made up of three different parts, each its own double album, and the whole set is a treasure trove of outtakes, alternate versions, plus in-studio banter between Paul, John, George, and Ringo. Anthology spans the band's entire career; start with Anthology 1 and you'll be thrust straight into Beatlemania. Anthology 2 digs into the Rubber Soul and Revolver era, and Anthology 3 covers the white album through the band's breakup.
There's some truly great stuff across the three, and technically there are also two "new" (as in completed after Abbey Road) Beatles songs on Anthology: "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" were old John Lennon demos that were resurrected by the group's surviving members in the '90s for a proper studio treatment. They're worth hearing along with everything else in Anthology, so hopefully it won't be long before this one is streamable.
Update: Well, it took a few months. The Beatles Anthology — parts 1, 2, and 3 — arrived on streaming services on April 4th, 2016. The other albums mentioned below are not yet available from Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play Music, et al.
Let It Be... Naked
In 2003, The Beatles released a different, stripped down take on their final studio album, Let It Be. Let It Be... Naked features mostly the same songs ("Don't Let Me Down" takes the place of two cut tracks, "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae"), but it's free of the orchestral overdubs, choirs, and other embellishments that Phil Spector added to the original album. His "Wall of Sound" production style is completely stripped away, letting the songs speak for themselves. The different running order, alternate takes, and remixed audio make this a must-listen for Let It Be fans. But you can't stream it... yet.
Live at the BBC
Now a two-part set, the Beatles' Live at the BBC albums aren't yet part of the streaming package. This might be disappointing if you're a big advocate of the group's early material, though it's largely covers here. Even so, the performances offer a nice look at the band's beginnings before Beatlemania took off. It's a time capsule that deserves to be on all the big streaming services.
This remix / mashup album was conceived as a soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name, but it ended being way more than that. Produced by George Martin and his son Giles, Love tears apart the Beatles classics as you know them, rearranging them into a heady, 26-track listening experience that spans the band's entire career. A project like this could've easily ended up as some overambitious disaster, but the Martins actually pulled it off. The mashups are simply fantastic to listen to, led by mixes that are far more punchy and modern-sounding than the remastered Beatles catalog. If you need help figuring out which songs have been cut up and stitched together, there's always Wikipedia. Seriously, why isn't an album released in 2006 available on Spotify and Apple Music?
And let us not forget about...
The Beatles in Mono
When the Beatles catalog was remastered in 2009, the band also released a boxset of its albums in mono. All the same obsessive care had gone into making those recordings sound as good as possible, so why aren't they here? I'm not about to argue over which version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is better or more "true" to the group's vision, but the mono recordings should be made available for the fans that want them. There are a few mono tracks on the newly-remastered 1 compilation, but it's not really the same thing as listening to entire albums that way.
So yeah, some stuff's missing on day one. But don't let that take away from the good part: you've now got every major Beatles album at your fingertips and on demand — no matter which streaming service you use. No exclusives. No playing favorites. And like I said, hopefully it won't be long before these other Beatles releases follow. Until then, you can always buy 'em on iTunes, or upload (legally purchased copies, please) to either Apple or Google Music, which is what I did for all Beatles albums until today.