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How Did The Beatles Sell 2 Million Songs On iTunes? Mostly Facebook (Not Search)

Although at least one recent study says search beats social media when it comes to product discovery, those rules don’t apply to The Beatles. When you’re known worldwide and have set the standard for commercial and critical musical success, social media is where it’s at in 2010.

Billboard magazine reports that The Beatles sold more than two million individual songs worldwide and in excess of 450,000 albums in its first week on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. (The Beatles’ catalog was added to iTunes on November 16th.)

According to Experian Hitwise, it was social media — not search — that drove a lot of the online interest and, more importantly, the online traffic surrounding The Beatles addition to iTunes. Consider this stat: On November 16, the first day Beatles songs were available on iTunes, 26% of UK traffic to Apple.com came from social media, about double the amount that came from search.

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And Hitwise says Apple received a “huge spike” in UK traffic coming specifically from Facebook. The week prior to The Beatles launch on iTunes, Apple was the 86th most popular outbound destination from Facebook; after the launch, it jumped up to the 20th most popular. Hitwise says that one in every 200 web site visits that left Facebook went straight to Apple’s web site.

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What About US Traffic?

We asked Hitwise to run similar data for the US market. The numbers show a marked increase in social media traffic to Apple.com and a drop in search traffic on November 16th, but not enough for the former to surpass the latter.

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And just as in the UK, Facebook was a primary source of US traffic to Apple.com. Hitwise says there was an 18% jump in Facebook-to-Apple.com visits after the Beatles’ iTunes premiere.

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Even though Facebook can take the credit for driving a lot of traffic to Apple’s web site, it wasn’t all bad news for search. In the UK, Hitwise says searches on Beatles-related terms “increased 30-fold” during the week of the launch. And in the US, Hitwise says there was a 19% increase in searches for the exact word “beatles” on November 16 vs. the day before.


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