By Patrick Prince
Do you want iconic Beatles images as part of your everyday life and home's interior design? Well, now you can have that courtesy of Steiner Sports.
Steiner Sports, the country’s leading marketer of authentic autographed sports memorabilia, is getting into the Beatles business in a big way by signing alicensing agreement with Apple Corps Ltd. (via Bravado International) to create and market unique Beatles Wall Art.
Partnering with Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd. is a smart move for a sports memorabilia company moving into the music space. In the sports memorabilia world, Steiner was extremely successful in signing alicensing agreement with the New York Yankees in 2005 (creating Yankees-Steiner Collectibles). The Beatles, after all, are the Yankees of rock 'n' roll. There is no bigger brand or recognized name in music than The Beatles.
"Brandon Steiner (CEO of Steiner Sports) had the foresight to think big and align himself with the Yankees for all memorabilia and stadium deals," explains Tom Bartsch, Editor of Sports Collectors Digest. "Brilliant. Align yourself with the most popular franchise of all time, with a fan base that stretches around the world. The breadth of memorabilia they offer is impressive, and is a great foundation for The Beatles license. Steiner Sports thinks differently in terms of displaying memorabilia, and I expect that to shine through with their Beatles license."
With the release of Beatles Wall Art, Steiner officially begins its brave journey into The Beatles' vast universe. The wall art will deliver a unique touch by creating variations of Beatles' album covers (see variations of "Abbey Road" below), as well as offering both the U.S. and U.K. versions of Beatles albums in separate framed collages.
This year, Steiner will also begin to roll out product to commemorate the "Revolver" album, celebrating its 50th anniversary and its impact on pop culture. Next year an even bigger task: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" will get the anniversary treatment.
Goldmine recently spoke with Steiner Sports' Director of Purchasing/Athlete Signings, Eric Levy, about their new (and upcoming) Beatles product.
GOLDMINE:On your web site (www.steinersports.com), photographs show what each piece of Beatles Wall Art would look like in different living spaces (living room, man cave, office, etc). People can really get a sense of what this wall art can look like set up in a certain environment; it's better than just showing an image in a frame or by itself on canvas.
ERIC LEVY: It's important to show it that way, because that's the way people want to see it, having to visualize it. I think it's going to help with this project also; especially this kind of stuff. I fell like on this stuff it iskind of a "collect-all-of-them" kind of thing but also the pieces are bigger, they're better. They just look different than the typical stuff you do have out there. They're bigger sizes. You know people want that one piece that's gonna be on their wall, versus I want to fill my wall with as many small pieces as possible. So I think it's important for them to see it behind a couch or in an office.
GM: I mean, with music there's no better place to start than The Beatles. You compared them to the Yankees. It's true, they last. Beatles continue to be popular and collectible with every generation.
EL: Right. I think it's completely timeless no matter how old you are. It's a different entity than anything else. You know who The Beatles are. You know the iconic images — we're going to be really about putting a different spin on them. Our product development is unbelievable. The Abbey Roads are not all traditional Abbey Roads ... different spins on the classic stuff. But everyone knows that stuff. Everyone knows the "Abbey Road" cover. Everyone knows the songs. Most of the people who are Beatles fans weren't even around then.
GM: And for the people who want to collect them all, there's the cover of "Yesterday and Today." As you know there is the infamous "Butcher" cover. Is that even marketable?
EL: I don't know. ("Yesterday and Today") is actually a really good album. We do have the U.K. and the U.S. albums — and that's kind of like a 'tweener album. That's actually an important album for the U.S. And it's interesting if you look at it because that is one where there's certain songs from "Revolver" like "Doctor Robert" and "And Your Bird Can Sing." We'll look at it. We have it on the discography piece for the U.S. It's an important record, so ...
GM: You're really going to please the collectors and music enthusiasts with the choice of putting out both U.S. and U.K. versions of Beatles album covers.
EL: Yeah, and I think that it's important to the collectors also that these are real licensed official Beatles products, where in the past couple years, in what I've seen, there has been a void of this stuff in the marketplace. A lot of bootleg stuff especially now that you have things like Etsy and things like that, where people have a forum to put stuff that is not licensed by The Beatles, they're knockoffs. (With our wall art) you'll see the logo at the bottom of it and it's important that that stuff's out there in the marketplace, that it's coming from the right place and it starts at the top with our partners (Apple Corps Ltd.).
GM: Have you thought about packaging some U.K. and U.S. covers together, side-by-side?
EL: Yeah, that's definitely something we can look at at some point. Right now we're really focused on the new products. We'll be doing some really cool '66 pieces. You are going to see in the next month or so us commemorate "Revolver" and that special year. Then carry on to next year for "Sgt. Pepper's," which we have a ton of unbelievable ideas.
GM: With music enthusiasts and collectors, commemorating anniversaries is very big so that's another thing you are smart about doing besides putting out both U.S. and U.K. album covers.
EL: Yeah, it's something that's always been important to us. We're a few months into the year but next year there will definitely be something like 'Today in Music' or 'Today in Beatles' ... you'll see a lot more of that featured on our site.
GM: In your eyes, what is the most iconic Beatles album?
EL: Album itself, it's "Sgt. Pepper's." I think as far as an image, I still think that "Abbey Road" is the one — as far as an image, as far as people knowing The Beatles. But "Sgt. Pepper's" is the most iconic. For me, the best image that we did is the umbrella image (at left). As far as the colors, that's one of my favorites. You'll see some other stuff come out, too, to commemorate the tours. There's a Ron Howard movie coming out in the Fall ("The Beatles Live") about the early years which is awesome. So we're going to be doing some more live stuff — there are some cool live photos. There aren't a lot of live photos out there more than Ed Sullivan and a couple others, so we're gonna try to do a bunch of those coming up, too.
GM: I was just going to ask, where do you go from here — from the album covers to other Beatles stuff.
EL: I think these are the staples. Right now we have "Abbey Road" and a couple different versions of that. And then going from there it's going to be getting into live stuff, getting a little more into '66, where you're gonna see some cool limited edition stuff commemorating "Revolver." And then gearing up for next year ... next year is a really big year for Beatles fans and for the "Sgt. Pepper's" album. The album was very important worldwide; not just for music, for everything, so there's a big shift there.
GM: Would you ever move to covers of the solo albums from individual Beatles? Quite a few of those are on Apple.
EL: No. Although there are pretty cool ones but we wouldn't. "All Things Must Pass" is one of my favorite albums by any artist but this is about all four guys, commemorating The Beatles, at this point.
GM: Would you do this with another band, like The Rolling Stones?
EL: Yeah, I think it'd be great but right now we want to focus on The Beatles. But, yeah, at some point it would be cool. There are so many different things out there. But The Beatles are The Beatles. There's something just different about The Beatles. So right now we're just going to focus on that and put out the best product possible and really honor the legacy.
GM:At Steiner Sports, you obviously work with signatures a lot. Would you ever do signed pieces, say by Paul McCartney, on these works?
EL: You know, not on these pieces. It's interesting but I'll tell you why. There are a lot of reasons but, you know, in our world there are multies on pieces that aren't complete; like if you had (Derek) Jeter and (Mariano) Rivera and (Jorge) Posada on a piece and you didn't have (Andy) Pettite, it's not complete. You're chasing Pettitte to complete one (item of the "Core Four"). And (with The Beatles) you're missing John and George, (so) it's not complete. It's about the four guys. It's about all four equally. And I think that's important. That's a big part of the legacy. Listen, Paul McCartney signatures are awesome. I have my own feelings about rock 'n' roll signatures and to really do it organized but that's another conversation. But not on this stuff. This stuff is about commemorating the band. It's about the four guys as one entity. It's the sum of all parts. You know, Ringo's just as important on "Strawberry Fields Forever" for his drums as John is for writing everything.
GM: Because you've worked so long in the field of sports memorabilia, compare the collectibility in music to sports a little bit.
EL: Collectibility in music ... it's more about a feeling, it's more about commemorating an experience than anything else. When someone listens to an album the first time or if you remember where you were when you heard a song, you commemorate that experience. You have that kind of "Oh, this is the first time I heard 'We Can Work it Out'" or something like that. You remember that thing. It's more about you remembering those moments, which is kind of the same way with The Beatles stuff. You look at the Abbey Road (Wall Art), you remember the first time you listened to "Abbey Road." People collect more based on a feeling, less than on a value. It's kind of the same way in sports but there's a lot more of a value to it (in sports). Music is changing a bit where you have these guys chasing people at hotels getting autographs, getting them authenticated through these third-party authentication companies and putting them on eBay. And that's kind of a problem with that celebrity stuff in general, but celebrities are coming around to signing — which you probably see. You definitely see more signatures. But (most) stuff doesn't look good, These guys are rushing, they're walking out of hotels, they're signing the Metallica Black Album with a black Sharpie because that's what the guy hands them and they're just trying to be nice. There is a way, I think, to get a little more organized because there is value. This stuff is going for big money on different platforms. So I do think it'll get there in the next couple of years, where it might not be equal to sports but it's getting there. But, again, The Beatles thing is a different thing. It's not about signatures, it's not about anything else, it's really about just commemorating the band and commemorating the albums because people remember when they first listened to an album ... or saw their first tour — there's a (wall art) piece of them and a U.S. flag from the first U.S. tour which is pretty cool (see above, left). We're going to wrap up ticket collages around that, stuff like that. It's about product development. It's all about having the right images. You can't just say, "Okay, let's do The Beatles and let's just do the 'Sgt. Pepper's' cover, and that's it." You need the right images from "Sgt Pepper's," there's so more than just the cover. It's like doing a signing by having the right image of the grand slam instead of just a photo of the guy at bat. People want to know that that is the grand slam photo, just like people want to know that that's the '67 photo or that's the photo from the "Let It Be" session.
GM: And going back to my first question, I think presentation is important. The way you show the image in a setting like a living room or man cave is important because a lot of places will just show the item. It's a better selling point to show the image in a living space.
EL: And that's the first time we've done that and I think that's gonna help our core business in general. It's like all of a sudden you can go on our site and see a pair of Yankee Stadium seats, which there are not that many left, you're actually going to see what that's going to look like in a living room or a man cave instead of just a floating pair of seats. Which is cool because on most sites that's what it is, just a floating pair of seats. So I think that's a good direction for us anyway. And I think it's going to help with The Beatles stuff; these pieces especially, more than a person collecting a bunch of 8x10s or signed baseballs, it's the focal point of their room. This is a big thing, so they want to see it in that setting.
Go to steinersports.com for more information.