Saturday, July 02, 2005

More on those BBC Beethoven MP3 files

A fascinating overgrown path took me to City of Sound. This is the blog run by Dan Hill who works for BBC Radio and Music Interactive. Dan is Head of Interactive Technology and Design, and runs the team responsible for designing and building the BBC's radio and music-based interactive offerings across web, digital tv, and mobile platforms. This includes the technology platform for the Radio 3 Beethoven MP3 download project.

Dan confirms the extraordinary number of downloads quoted in my recent post and writes:

"I can't tell you the amount of buzz this is generating right across the BBC. Lots of extremely interesting questions continue to be raised by the success of our trials - from distribution to commercial policy, from music strategies to on-demand radio, from marketing to navigation and so on - and we're feeding a lot of the learning and creative ideas right into the heart of the various bits of strategic and tactical BBC work going on at the moment. It's profoundly interesting for us, and I hope for some of you."

And here is a breakdown of the downloads from Dan's blog as at June 16. With an average download of around 100,000 per symphony the total for the whole cycle is going to be pretty close to a million:

"Live performances of Beethoven's first five symphonies, broadcast as part of The Beethoven Experience on BBC Radio 3, have amassed an incredible 657,399 download requests during a week long trial. The downloads – launched on 6 June - offered complete Radio 3 programmes containing live performances of the symphonies by the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. They were available free of charge and therefore not eligible for the Official UK Download or Top 40 Singles charts, although the public’s enthusiasm for the programmes is evident from the individual totals:
Symphony 1 (6 to 13 June) - 164,662
Symphony 2 (7 to 14 June) - 154,496
Symphony 3 (6 to 13 June) - 89,318
Symphony 4 (7 to 14 June) - 108,958
Symphony 5 (7 to 14 June) - 139,905


Exciting stuff, but I just hope the BBC technology horse doesn't get too far ahead of the commercial cart. The internet is littered with enterprises that started by giving their intellectual property away (e.g. Netscape), and subsequently never managed to persuade people to pay for it.

It is essential that through this period of rapid technology change the interests of the creators of musical intellectual property are properly safeguarded. And that means composers, editors and performers, not just the powerful RIAA/BPI lobby.

Once the toothpaste is squeezed out of the tube it is mighty difficult to get back in.

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