Monday, January 11, 2010

Please don't buy my product!

How hard is it to buy a classical album, either on CD or as a download? Quite difficult, as it turns out.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been examining how to fill my collection with the works of composers whose anniversaries fall this year (see earlier post for some names). eMusic remains a good source, of course. But I also came up with a list of 81 albums (found via Classical Digest) not available through eMusic. I don't intend to buy all of them, or even a substantial portion, but I was curious as to how easily available they were. I had a look at mail order site MDT and download sites iTunes, Qobuz, and Amazon is of course a great source but for the purposes of this experiment I decided to mostly ignore it, mainly because I couldn't be arsed keeping track of what was available from Amazon itself and what was new versus used from other sellers.
The 81 albums covered a range of composers and labels, major and independent, and of varying ages (very few of them more than 20 years old, I'd say).
Only 36 were available from MDT. iTunes had 26, Qobuz 21, and 7digital 17, and altogether 43 albums were available as downloads.
Of the 45 albums not available on disc from MDT, 20 could be obtained as a download, leaving 25 unavailable from all 4 sources. (Which is where Amazon scores; also, 4 of the 25 were available from classicsonline, and 1 from Hyperion).
Only 1 - one! - of the 81 albums was available from all 4 sources: a 2-CD set of baroque and classical horn concertos performed by Barry Tuckwell on EMI. It's on special offer from MDT at the moment, for the equivalent of €7.50 (not including postage, which is under €2). Or you can download it from iTunes or Qobuz for €19.99, or from 7digital for €21.99.

So, what have we learned?
That the labels delete an awful lot of material. But sometimes it comes back, very cheap, on CD.
That there's little relationship between the price of a CD and the price of a download of the same thing. Sometimes downloads are significantly cheaper, sometimes they're laughably dearer.
That downloads are filling some of the gaps in the catalogue caused by deletions, but there are still plenty of gaps left.
Actually, come to think of it, we knew all that already. But we're scientists here; we like to have the data.

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