Happy Birthday Brian by Terry Crain
Today is Brian Epstein’s birthday. When Brian’s name comes up in the context of merchandising, everyone comments about the ‘agreement’ surrounding merchandise – 10% to Brian and the Beatles, and 90% to the management company. This always reminds me of a simple mantra – hindsight makes us all brilliant by giving us perfect 20/20 vision after the fact.
What makes it interesting is that Brian had no guide book to follow, no playbook to help, no experiences of other marketing campaigns before of this size to learn from…they were writing the rules as they went along. There had never been mass merchandising of an entity on this scale before anywhere, including Disney, Marvel, Superman, Elvis, etc. So I cut Brian a break.
He could have easily thought, “let me get this straight…we get 10% of monies, and we don’t have to do anything? We just loan you our name and a couple of photos and likenesses, and you hand us a check? This is the greatest gig ever!” And the precedent had been set…they had been doing UK deals in late ’63 at the 10%, so this wasn’t such a stretch.
Now it didn’t take long for him to change his mind. When they handed him the first royalty check in early 1964 for $9000, he thought it was great…until they reminded him that was his 10%. He did the quick math, realized they kept about $80,000 and immediately had the lawyers work to change it to more of a 50-50 split. That took six months, but by then, things had changed.
So Brian did his best with what was the current knowledge at hand, and we toast him on his birthday. Mark it ‘faB!’
Get your copy of Terry’s great book on Brian and The Beatles merchandise – “NEMS and the Business of Selling Beatles Merchandise in the US 1964-66”