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Classical Issues

Brad Hill comments on issues pertaining to classical music and the digital revolution:

    I’m a lifelong classical fan, and take a special interest in the digital
    distribution of this genre. Because of the length of its tracks, the
    demographics of its audience, and the relationship of orchestras to record
    labels, classical music presents unique challenges and contrasts to pop
    music. Even the ethics of downloading classical music differ from pop
    downloading, IMO, though there is no legal distinction of the two genres.

    The BW article speculates that the classical services might lead the larger
    recording industry into the promised land of fluid online distribution. That
    would be ironic, considering the current sorry state of classical online
    services, and there is reason for both hope and cynicism. On one hand,
    monetizing the classical catalogue has advantages over pop music:

    * P2P networks contain a poor inventory of classical music
    * Long track lengths require better downloading performance than P2P offers
    * The audience demographic skews older and wealthier than the pop audience
    * Simpler copyright conditions prevail when the music authorship is public
    domain
    * Fans are dedicated and lacking in options
    * CD sales are beyond abysmal, perhaps leading to attitude flexibility at
    the labels

    On the other hand, certain forces work against a successful classical
    service:

    * Track lengths and audiophilic demands of the audience require broadband
    * Low demand–the market is small and possibly shrinking
    * Media players and tagging standards are geared to pop-song requirements
    * Classical artists are even further behind the curve than pop
    content-owners

    As things stand now, there is no effective way to build a classical
    collection via downloading. P2P is excruciating; Andante is streaming-only
    and not ready for prime-time anyway; Rhapsody/Naxos is satisfying but
    streaming-only (not counting the meager monthly burn allowance); MP3.com’s
    Classical Channel is a destitute wasteland; Classical.com offers the same
    music-rental deal as Pressplay.

    Perhaps the brightest light at the end of the tunnel derives from the
    essential free-agent status of most orchestras, which can record and market
    their concerts unencumbered by obligations to a label. (I don’t know if this
    is true of soloists, and would be grateful for information about record
    deals of stars like Evgeny Kissin and Hilary Hahn.) The result seems to be
    content deals forged by online services with performance ensembles directly.
    Rhapsody’s deal is with the Naxos label, but Andante signs orchestras
    (Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, others) and streams
    concerts as fresh as two weeks past.

    With orchestras always desperate for revenue sources, and with recordings so
    drastically devalued in the offline retail channels, the need is for a
    listening/downloading portal that owns non-exclusive rights to concert
    recordings and shares revenue with the orchestra. The orchestra may also
    market through its own online destination if it can master the technicals of
    encoding and serving files. The Electronic Media Forum took the lead in
    attempting to establish standards for online delivery of classical music,
    but at this point that organization seems like a cross between RIAA
    cluelessness and SDMI obsolescence. Independent sites like Andante are
    stealing the show, and what’s to stop them? With new content being created
    from public-domain sources all the time, owned by the performer and no label
    to enforce artificial scarcity, maybe the world’s great orchestras WILL lead
    the industry forward after all.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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