Monday, February 2, 2009

Classical Online CD Retailer Offers Downloads

The popular online classical-music CD retailer Arkivmusic.com announced last week that it is now offering music downloads in MP3 format, beginning with five new releases from the budget-price label Naxos.  The company promises to expand its offerings in the future.  

Arkivmusic.com, founded in 2002, has built a loyal following of classical-music aficianados who see the site as an independent, well-stocked alternative to Amazon.com and other online retailers.  In particular, the site has earned kudos from the hard-core for offering on-demand CD reissues of out-of-print material from major labels, a program that has been active since March 2005. 

For years, people within classical music have held that the internet--and music downloading in particular--is an energizing force for their part of the music industry.  Alex Ross, in a New Yorker article from October 2007, sees interest in the genre growing as listeners sample new classical music through iTunes and as a classical music culture of bloggers, independent retailers, and music services galvanize the faithful.  

Most on the supply side, though, see the internet as a cheap and easy way to get their material out into the market.  In October 2005, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra became the first orchestra to sell their live recordings online, and, at around the same time, Universal Classics began selling download-only albums from the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  

Klaus Heymann, founder of Naxos, once claimed that he only began seeing a return on his investment in the company when downloading came along, and claims that "we could live comfortable if from tomorrow we never sold another CD."