Let it be?

Exploring The Beatles grey market, 1970–1995


  • Holly Tessler University of the West of Scotland




Beatles, grey market, Capitol, EMI, Sony-ATV, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Star, Apple


This article seeks to trace the origins of the contemporary Beatles brand between 1970-1995. In the years immediately following the Beatles’ breakup, The companies who controlled the Beatles’ primary intellectual property assets established an ad-hoc working policy to clamp down on individuals and companies illegally trafficking in copyrighted Beatles materials; and to develop a stewardship over the evolving social, cultural and musical ‘legacy’ of the Beatles and their music, which became especially important following the murder of John Lennon in 1980. The result of these strategies was the creation of a de facto Beatles grey market involving legal but unauthorised Beatles projects – those developed, produced and released by legitimate third parties but without the former Beatles’ approval – and authorised projects – those developed, produced and sanctioned by the former group. This enabled Apple to successfully launch its ‘post-Sixties Beatles’ brand in 1995, which endures as one of the most valuable global music assets.

Author Biography

Holly Tessler, University of the West of Scotland

Holly Tessler is a Senior Lecturer in Commercial Music in the School of Media, Culture and Society at the University of the West of Scotland. Research interests include the Beatles, Garage Rock, music industries as creative industries, cultural branding, and popular music culture.


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How to Cite

Tessler, H. (2015). Let it be? Exploring The Beatles grey market, 1970–1995. Popular Music History, 9(1), 48–63. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v9i1.27618