I am delighted with the Beatles “Let it Be” documentary. Like many, I subscribed to Disney Plus just to get it. Nice to have the opportunity to look back at the band that changed everything. But it wasn’t the first behind-the-scenes look back at John, Paul George and Ringo.
Back around Thanksgiving in 1995, QVC had the world debut of the Beatles Anthology, Volume One. As I did most of the music shows on QVC, I was chosen to host the primetime event. They sent me an advanced copy and I spent a couple of days listening and remembering how much The Beatles impacted us all in the 1960’s. The Anthology was full of historic recordings, even some by their original band, The Quarrymen and John Lennon’s as-of-yet unheard song, “Free as a Bird.”
I was in heaven. Each track brought back memories and gave me an insider’s look at the early days of the band and their time in the recording studio. I listened almost nonstop for a couple of days before the presentation.
When the big day came, we had 9,000 Anthologies in stock. QVC programmed a full hour of Beatles’ merchandise, with the Anthology as the anchor product. We opened the show and did a preview of the products. We were the first retailer in the country to have the Anthology and had promoted it extensively. Half of our inventory sold out during the preview.
Realizing that our time was limited, I dove right into the tracks from the Anthology. Then, one of the things that made QVC great happened. The producer got in my IFB (earpiece) and told me our President had contacted Apple when he realized The Anthology was going to quickly sell out and got us more inventory. They gave us everything they had ready to ship, 12,000 additional copies.
We changed the graphic on the fly and let the customers know that it would take a few additional days to receive their order. It would still arrive well before the other retail stores would have it in stock. This ability to change course “on the fly” helped establish QVC as a force of nature in online retailing.
I was able to play quite a few tracks on-air before all 21,000 copies sold out. Even took a few phone calls from viewers who were as excited as I was. When the dust cleared, we received awards from the recording industry and Apple itself. The debuts of Volumes 2 and 3 went just as well.
We did quite a business with music during the 1990’s. I hosted shows for acts ranging from Pink Floyd to Smokey Robinson. The merchandise sold very well and had a nice profit margin for the company. I even forged a friendship with Cynthia Lennon, who had been my guest on several Beatles’ Shows. We talked on the phone several times. She lived on a farm on the Isle of Skye with her husband Jim. Cynthia usually forgot about the time difference and she sometimes called at 3 AM our time. She was charming and often talked about how proud she was of her son, Julian.
Televised shopping has embraced a different strategy these days and there is no place for music in their current business plans. While this is disappointing, it’s not a bad thing. It’s their ongoing strategy these days and seems to be working for them. Still, my memories of the music shows remind me that we changed the game for music retailing back then and had a hell of a lot of fun doing it!
The lyrics of an old folk song sum up my feelings perfectly:
How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get up and go has got up and went.
But in spite of it all, I’m able to grin.
And think of the places my get up has been.