Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What classical music services need

Amanda Holloway hits the nail on the head with what classical music listeners want from digital downloading services in her piece for the Times Online (U.K.). Personally, I want a site that apes the experience I got from going into the old Tower Classical store down on South St. in Philadelphia. That was heaven!

She made lots of good points, some of the best include:

1) Meaningful metadata for name, name-title searching/browsing. Roles are so important. A composer is not a performer is not an orchestra.

2) The track's not the thing, it's the whole work. The track-oriented structure of the whole market really does a number on classical. Think how many arias, recitatives, and choruses make up an opera! They need to be linked hierarchially: movements, scenes, parts, acts, etc.

3) We care about audio quality. At least CD-quality sound (44/16), esp. for live recordings.

4) Back catalog material is just as important as the newest recordings. Keep on re-releasing all those forgotten 78s and vinyl LPs!


At Tue Apr 04, 10:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) A performer is not an orchestra, maybe. But surely an orchestra is a performer, no?

2) You have to understand the point of view of the vendors, though. One of iTunes' best marketing moves was to go for consistency in pricing. Every tune is one dollar. But they couldn't get away with selling the entire Verdi Requiem for the same price as "Ring of Fire," could they? :-)

At Wed Apr 05, 08:58:00 AM, Blogger bill said...

I agree, I agree, I agree, Thom.

Whenever I get a classical CD and copy it to the hard drive, I usually type in my own metadata, and up the import quality substantially. I do think that classical offerings need to be thought of differently in how they're presented (I like how iTunes lets you purchase a classical "work", for example, though I've never purchased classical downloads that weren't 'bonus tracks'), and the reproduction quality is everything. Then there are the liner notes...

I think I'm sticking with classical music on CDs for a while.

At Wed Apr 05, 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Thom said...

1) It was a word play, which didn't work apparently. So much for being clever. :)

2) That is part of the problem, and one of the reason classical fans might (and will) play more (to a point). The Verdi Requiem example works out to be quite fair actually, because it can be broken down into 15 parts, per Allmusic.com's division. I know I want all 15 of those tracks. When you a work like Handel's Messiah though, you might have 40-50 movements, and that's a lot when you're not getting the packaging. My point was that pricing models don't encourage discovery and consumption of music in the way that it did for me when I was a member of the BMG Classical Music Service.

At Wed Apr 05, 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Thom said...

I've bought the three movements of the Chichester Psalms to learn for a chorus concert--and it is quite a steal at $0.99 a track at iTunes. The point is I'm not going to build a whole collection of classical music this way. Without something to stick on my bookcase to remind me I own it, it usually remains out of sight and out of mind.

At Wed Apr 05, 11:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed on all counts. Ultimately, I don't think that the iTunes model is really meant for the Classical afficionado. If you're just dying for the theme from Batman, though...

Sorry I missed your wordplay :(


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