I’ve always been amazed at how the Beatles completely changed America’s taste for music in just 5 short years. It was a culture shift that hasn’t been equalled since.
Now, I admit I’m a huge Beatles nerd. I was just a kid when they were in their heyday, but I discovered their music in college and still listen to them today. My sons were so tuned into the Beatles that they both took an amazing class on the band while at Indiana University (I sat in on a few of their classes, and highly recommend you do the same) and know more about the band than I do.
What many people may not know is how hard the Beatles worked before they hit it big in the U.S.
In 1960, the Beatles were just another English Skiffle band until they were hired at a dive bar in Hamburg, Germany. There, they played every night, all night long, refining their sound during five long stints over two years. Back in the UK, they played gigs and appeared on radio shows whenever they weren’t in the studio, cranking out multiple singles and albums every year. In 1963 they did 3 tours of England in 6 months, left for 5 days in Sweden, then back again to England for another 6 week tour. In 1964 they staged 37 shows over 27 days in the Netherlands, Denmark, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. They made movies and music videos before MTV and YouTube ever existed. They greeted their fans, chatted up the press and posed for photographers over 100 times. They were everywhere.
Yet they were still somewhat unknown in the US. Because of a lack of marketing support by Capitol Records, EMI’s American subsidiary, most Americans weren’t aware of the Beatles. It wasn’t until December 1963 that a $40K marketing campaign for the Beatles was launched in Tidewater VA, and in just a few days every other song played on the local radio station was a Beatle’s recording. In January, they took that same campaign to New York. By the time they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show just one month later, 34% of the US population tuned in to see what the fuss was all about.
It was the evolution of their music over the next 5 years that made such a difference.
Starting from their pop singles in 1963 (She Loves You, Love Me Do, Please Please Me), to the confident sound of their Rubber Soul LP, to the creative complexity of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, the Beatles moved popular music ahead further and faster than anyone else ever had. A process that started as cranking out a single in an afternoon had turned into a studio album that took over 700 hours to complete and included a 40-piece orchestra. Even after 1967, The Beatles (White Album), Abbey Road and Let It Be were major influences on other bands, musicians and music lovers across the world.
In just a few years the Beatles changed how we thought about music, influenced our cultural attitudes, and opened our eyes to new possibilities. They are also a great example of how many people you can reach, and what can be accomplished, when you combine talent with effort and good marketing.
Which made me think; we have lots of talent in our industry, all hard workers with plenty of marketing knowledge…
Why couldn’t we change how people think about their money in just a few years?
CUs are supposed to be all about empowerment, not just free checking and cheap car loans. But in a time where 1% own most of the total wealth of the world, it sure seems like a good time for someone to step up and help the other 99%. There are other economic issues of our time where practical, nonpolitical leadership is desperately needed as well.
So what are we going to do about it?
And if we don’t do it, who will?
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