Entertainment A-List 2010

Entertainment A-List No. 5: The Beatles, Rock Band

Simultaneous Launch of Re-Mastered Catalog and Game Creates Powerful Sales Combo

By Published on .

YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Come together -- for a marketing blitz. That's just what the Beatles did on Sept. 9, 2009. That day, written by promoters as 09.09.09, was the launch for the digitally re-mastered original Beatles catalog, and "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game from MTV Networks.

The combination of the unique date (with its echo of the song "Revolution No. 9"), long-awaited music discs and hyped 45-song game resulted in a powerful marketing force that catapulted the Beatles brand to renewed success almost 40 years after the breakup of the band.

Paul DeGooyer, senior VP-electronic games and music for MTV Networks Music Group
Paul DeGooyer, senior VP-electronic games and music for MTV Networks Music Group
"Synchronizing the release of 'The Beatles: Rock Band' video game and the Beatles re-masters was central to our strategy," Paul DeGooyer, senior VP-electronic games and music for MTV Networks Music Group, said in an e-mail interview. "It enabled us to make a statement about the authenticity of the game -- a completely new visual and experiential trip through the Beatles' music -- in the context of an update to the familiar: the re-release of the best-selling catalog of music in history. This proved to be a powerful combination."

Indeed, the seminal band dominated the music charts the week of Sept. 9, with a record-breaking 18 of the top 50 spots on Billboard's Comprehensive Album chart. Overall sales were brisk, with the re-mastered discs selling 2.25 million albums worldwide -- 1 million of them in the U.S. -- in only five days, according to record label EMI Music. The re-releases, which garnered widespread positive reviews, also helped stir interest among younger fans.

The "Rock Band" video game also quickly hit 1 million in sales and has now reached almost 2 million sold, according to MTV Networks. The game has digital album downloads as extras; "Abbey Road," "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Rubber Soul" are the first legally available digital downloads of the Beatles music. (The re-mastered albums were only made available on disc.) The $20 million "Rock Band" marketing and advertising campaign included a TV ad with original Beatles footage, cinematic trailers and online tributes, as well as public relations efforts that resulted in massive media coverage and the front cover of leading entertainment magazine covers such as Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Billboard -- not bad for a group long split up.

Re-mastered Beatles catalog sales in first five days
"Rock Band" total game sales
Estimated first month of "Rock Band" revenue
The surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, helped push the PR effort ahead with atypical enthusiasm for media interviews and joint public appearances. Both men, as well as Beatles widows Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, appeared together at the E3 video-game conference announcement of the game, and spoke about the games and re-releases to many publications. All four participated in a New York Times Magazine cover story in August, just before the game and discs launched, that was described as a watershed PR moment.

The quartet also played a role in developing the game -- reviewing and aiding in creating authentic characters and play -- and in the TV commercial use of previously unseen archive footage.

"From a creative standpoint, the game introduced beautiful, meaningful imagery tied to the Beatles' powerful music, becoming the first truly new Beatles release in decades," Mr. DeGooyer said.

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