There’s a great article over at NewMusicBox by Jean Cook that examines her frustrations when dealing with the seemingly nonsensical way digital music providers handle classical music tracks. Undoubtedly, anyone who has spent much time dealing with iTunes and the lot would give Jean’s article a hearty "Amen!" but what I found really interesting were the comments. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t more comments from the wide variety of boutique classical music digital providers but at the time this article is published, there are only comments from representatives of Naxos and Chandos, both of which chime in with intriguing points along with plugs for their respective service. It is a great conversation but here’s the issue I have with most of the discussions surrounding classical music recordings and digital distribution: what about those of us who don’t want to buy it…
One of the biggest problems with advancements in classical music
digital distribution is it tends to be label-centric. Meaning, you can
download quite a bit from any one catalog but finding a place to
download tracks from a wide variety of labels from several decades
seems to be impossible. Simply put, I want to be able to select from
recordings by the big boys as much (ok, more frequently) than a
generic, quasi-slave-labor Eastern European group. That’s not a knock
against Eastern European groups (don’t worry Naxos, I love your
repertoire driven thinking) but merely recognizing a fact that there
isn’t any one stop shopping with first-class variety.
And then there’s the shopping. As mentioned above, what if you
don’t actually want to buy the music? Not long ago, on-demand music
streaming seemed neck and neck with music download sites with regard to
capturing the online market share. For years, I’ve been a subscriber to
MusicMatch Jukebox which was purchased by Yahoo who promptly screwed it
up (and is now discontinuing the service); all of which really gets me
I love streaming music. Really, I can’t understate that. I love streaming music. And let me get something straight; yes, I know iTunes has streaming music but it isn’t on-demand
streaming which means I can’t select what I want to listen to and
listen to it at any point in time 24/7. Being able to listen to
millions of songs from non-classical genres as well as a
not-too-terrible selection of classical music was a real treat. Even
though classical was a smaller piece of the pie with regard to
offerings, at least the selection featured a wide variety of ensembles.
It was fun being able to listen to entire movements back
to back from something recorded by Philadelphia and some Euro group
I’ve never heard of. Once, I remember pulling up 23 different
recordings of Carmina Burana just to listen to a few movements from each. Would I go out and buy 23 different recordings of Carmina Burana?
Not a chance. But I had no problem paying the $6.95/mo for access via
online streaming. Hell, I would be willing to pay more if the classical
music selection were larger.
Ultimately, I get disappointed when people talk about digital
music because no one seems to be outraged over the apparent loss of
on-demand streaming music. Instead, labels and distributors are herding
the cows that are listeners into the same old pen: buy it or nothing.
The whole topic gets me down and makes me frustrated but I will go to
my grave with the hope that one day, my dream of subscription based
on-demand digital music library with every classical music recording
known to mankind will one day be available.
I would love to hear what readers think and if anyone knows
about an on-demand streaming service, along the lines I’m talking
about, please chime in. However, let me give fair warning to any reps
from online music distributors: I don’t mind you writing in to plug
your service but add something to the discussion and be prepared for me
to (heavily) gripe about your service if it doesn’t fall within the
criteria above. However, if there’s anyone out there with as much music
as the old MuiscMatch Jukebox with 10 times the classical content at a
reasonable price (no, $1,000+ a year isn’t reasonable in my book), and
a classical-music friendly search engine, I’ll give you free
advertising at Adaptistration for a year.
<rant mode: off>