Beethoven Goes Digital

The September 17 issue of Newsweek published an interesting and encouraging article called "Beethoven Goes Digital." It presents some very positive news for classical music and its distribution through technology. Rather than paraphrase it here, I'd like to simply provide the link and have you read the full article by clicking here.

September 11, 2007 9:30 AM | | Comments (4)

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It would be a bad thing becase Classical CDs are just about the only ones that are not overpriced (especially Naxos!).

I meant to say:

The article does mention that illegal downloading hasn't hit classical music, in part because today's common file formats don't support the level of fidelity that many classical music listeners want.

This is probably a temporary situation, though. As bandwidth increases, and sound formats get better, there's no long term force preventing classical music from going the way of pop music, in terms of illegal downloads.

And I think that would be a good thing, though certainly understand why Naxos might disagree! :-)

Interesting article, Henry. Thanks for passing it along. Interesting to note in particular that classical music consumers are presented here as "technologically savvy". Hearing so often about classical music's aging audience, one wouldn't necessarily expect such a comment.

Does the article really "present positive news about classical music"? I'm not sure it's talking about classical music at all. It talks about the classical music recording industry, but that's not the same thing.

Is it so clear that a future business model for the for-profit classical music recording industry has much to do with music or musicians? Or, for that matter, with audiences? (Given that paid downloads comprise about 2% of all music filesharing on the Net, according to a statistic I've heard a number of times -- I could dig up the source, just don't have it at hand at the moment, sorry).

The closest the article came to addressing these questions was here: "At the same time, some industry watchers believe digital might also help create more classical megastars." [e.g., Lang Lang]

Even if that's true, so what? Is the creation of megastars something to aim for?

And it may not even be true. It might be more accurate to say that paid downloads have some influence on which people become megastars. But does it cause there to be more, or better, megastars than there would otherwise be? Or does it optimize for marketability rather than musicianship? (No slight on Lang Lang intended, of course: he's a terrific musician.)

So I guess I'm not convinced that that article was about music, or even music distribution, at all. It was definitely about the success of some companies' new business models, at least.

When I see an article that doesn't just count download statistics from the paid services, but actually counts the files people are actually listening to and where those files came from, then I'll know it's talking about the future of music distribution, and not merely the future of one particular business model.

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