Culture

Ringo Starr on how the Beatles benefited from being late to digital

Photograph by Brian Guido/Bloomberg

The following is a condensed and edited interview with musician and onetime Beatles percussionist, Ringo Starr.

Q: Why did the Beatles decide to finally make their music available on streaming services?

A: We’re just moving with the times. When we started with vinyl, and then CDs came out, that was good for us financially, because it wasn’t in the contract. We had to go to CDs in the end. We were pretty late there. We were late to iTunes, too, but went there so you could buy the tracks. Streaming is huge now, so we’re moving on. Who knows what’s going to be next? What’s Kanye West going to think of?

Q: How do you listen to music? Do you stream or listen to vinyl and CDs?

A: At home, I do it all. I love iTunes. Though the Beatles are streaming now and have had a billion streams, I haven’t actually done it myself. If I’m in the car, I usually listen to the radio, 88.5 Northridge [KCSN-FM]. I just love that channel.

The other night, I was at dinner with friends and their 18-year-old kid. He buys CDs and vinyl. The kids are going back to vinyl to be rebels. They’ve had CDs and streaming and all that stuff.

Q: What do you make of the disputes between artists and the streaming services, with artists claiming they aren’t getting paid enough?

A: I like to support the artists. I heard a guy had 12 million streams, and he got a check for $5, which is not fair. I’m not talking about us. The Beatles are doing fine, and we have the power where we can make a deal upfront.

For an artist starting off, there’s no clubs for them to play in. The venues have gone down. It’s very hard now. It’s easier to become a celebrity on a TV show as a band for four months than work solidly.

People think it just happened – we just woke up one morning and were Beatles. That’s not true.

We worked very hard with the venues and put in the time.

Q: Are the challenges for emerging artists the biggest change from when the Beatles began?

A: Yes. I go crazy, because if you want to open for a well-known band you have to pay; management makes you pay. Who is giving back? I did a Ringo tour once and had a local band at every gig open for us just to give them exposure. Nobody is helping anybody.

Q: When is the last time you toured?

A: Last Saturday [July 2] I played the Greek Theatre here [in Los Angeles]. I’m always touring. I’m taking the summer off this year, and in October it’s Japan and Korea.

Q: Where do you have the biggest fan base outside the U.S. and U.K.?

A: The U.S. is my town. America is my town.

Q: Is that why you voted for Brexit?

A: I voted for Brexit because I thought the European Union was a great idea, but I didn’t see it going anywhere lately. It’s in shambles, and we’re all stuck with people who want to make arrangements for their own country and don’t think for the other countries. Britain should be out and get back on its own feet.

Yeah, and now Scotland wants to leave and Wales wants to leave. Then it will be Devon. God knows where it will end.

Q: Since you’re always touring, will you be going to see Paul McCartney at the Desert Trip festival?

A: I’m not going, because I’ll be in Japan. They set it up after I was booked.

Q: The Rolling Stones will be playing. They’re one of those bands that just keeps touring. If the Beatles were still functioning, would you be touring?

A: We would. We would have gotten over our difficulties and gotten on the road again.

Q: You would have probably gotten a good paycheck.

A: Probably. We do it and get paid, but don’t do it to get paid. It’s all about the gig.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 15, 2016, on page 11.

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