Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Connect with the College

Scholar Authors Book Analyzing Beatles Phenomenon

April 10, 2020

Fifty years ago today, the Beatles, the most commercially successful and artistically innovative band of the 1960s, officially broke up. That decision was good for the band as well as pop music, according to a new book, The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution (Routledge Publishers) by DeVoe L. Moore Center Director Sam Staley.

Using leading-edge insights from economics and entrepreneurship, Staley takes a new approach, examining the Beatles as an entrepreneurial enterprise rather than a straightforward manifestation of the talent of its members to figure out how and why it ticked so creatively and innovatively.

"The breakup of the Beatles was inevitable,” Staley says. “The band was not artistically sustainable, and art was the critical value that drove the enterprise.”

What started as an entertaining way to introduce lay audiences to core economic concepts transformed into a study of the internal dynamics of the band, its impact on pop music, and its cultural legacy. Staley found economic analysis could uncover critical elements underlying the Beatles’ creative process that had largely been ignored.

Among the topics Staley discusses in the book:
- How the Beatles sound was grounded in Liverpool and the short-lived skiffle craze, not their Hamburg residencies as is popularly believed.
- Why the unique features of entrepreneurial Capitalism were critical for a band made up of working-class teenagers to excel and lead a global cultural revolution.
- How the Beatles were able to up-end the entire industry business model.
- Why no one else, whether its legendary producer George Martin or musician Billy Preston, can be considered a “fifth” Beatle.
- Why Ringo Starr and George Harrison were as essential to the Beatles formula as John Lennon and Paul McCartney
- Why other bands, such as the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys, failed to achieve similar levels of impact in pop culture

Staley’s insights have not gone unnoticed by experts who reviewed the manuscript prior to publication. Todd Lowry, arranger of The Complete Beatles and former business and legal affairs director for the iconic music publishing firm the Hal Leonard Company, calls The Beatles and Economics “thought provoking and well written… a good addition to the Beatles book shelf.” Nicolai Foss, an internationally recognized entrepreneurship scholar at the Copenhagen Business School, says this book “fills an important gap in modern writing on cultural economics and entrepreneurship.”

An academic specialist in urban policy and economic development, Staley has written extensively on popular culture. He is the author of “Contemporary Film and Economics” (Routledge, 2018), a film critic for the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and has published nearly 150 movie reviews since 2015. His writings for general audiences have appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, CNN.com, Reason magazine, the National Review, and more.