Friday, February 10, 2006

The BBC's frost with the music business

Interesting email received in response to my recent article Time for orchestra players to change their tune?

* I have attempted to clarify several of these issues in recent pieces. What do the London Symphony Orchestra make from LSO Live? Less per player per year than they would from a half-day's work at Abbey Road. What has the BBC achieved with Beethoven downloads? Brand recognition for one of its orchestras, a huge web footprint, and a frost with the music business.

Best Norman Lebrecht *

But across the pond Anne Midgette seems to be living on another planet. Writing in Wednesday's New York Times about the demise of classical music web site Andante she sings the praises of the BBC downloads, and manages to up the claimed numbers from 1.3m to 1.5m to support her argument. Ms. Midgette does also sing the praises of music blogs, but she obviously reads the wrong ones.

The 'huge success' of the Beethoven dowloads, which span so well for the BBC and the New York Times, can be judged by this sad little epitaph on the Radio 3 Beethoven Experience web site: 'The Beethoven Symphonies downloads service has now finished. Thank you for your interest and feedback. There are currently no plans to make the Beethoven Symphony downloads available again in the future.'

And yet more bad news for the free downloaders as regular reader Berend de Boer reports: ' Anyone downloaded the Danish MP3's of Mozart's symphonies? The quality is horrible, it's almost all white noise, impossible to listen to it. It's an insult to the downloaders. Making white noise available for free downloads, what a coup.'

Now playing -
vinyl LP of Mozart Symphony No. 35, K.385 'The Haffner'
, from the three LP set of the last six symphonies with Bruno Walter conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra which I wrote about recently. No sampling rate 'glass ceiling', a joined-up royalty stream, wonderful warm sound and exquisite music making - bliss. Although these recordings have made it onto CD sadly the sleeve design didn't, presumably because it wouldn't have worked under a five inch square piece of plastic. (Did the art of record sleeve design die with the advent of the CD, or did ECM kill it?) So above, to finish a thoroughly self-indulgent article (it is Friday), is a photograph of my lovely 12" square LP box from 1974.

Norman Lebrecht (right) publishes a weekly column in the London Evening Standard and at La Scena Musicale, and his new book, which is a survey of the classical record industry no less, will be published at the end of the year.

Image credits - frosty Beethoven from BBC Radio 3, Bruno Walter Mozart box from On An Overgrown Path, and Norman Lebrecht from Normanlebrecht.com. Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Is classical music too cheap? and Download doomsayer

6 comments:

Tim Rutherford-Johnson said...

Does your correspondent de Boer mention which Danish mp3s he has trouble listening to? I've just tried Syms 41 and 17 (clicked at random) and they both seem perfectly fine to me. Perhaps he got unlucky and hit a server glitch or something?

Pliable said...

Tim, no Berend didn't specify which files he had problems with - I cut and paste his comment exactly as it appeared on the article it was posted to.

Berend is a regular reader, so I'm sure he will pick this thread up.

Let no one accuse On An Overgrown Path of being anti-free MP3s. It is now acting as a forum for solving download technical problems!

Mr Duffy said...

I have downloaded only 4 of them so far: Symphonies No.23 and 40 are quite bad, while 34 and 41 are fine.

Mr Duffy said...

Listening again, No.41 is quite awful, too :(

Berend de Boer said...

Heh, I guess they read this blog....

I tried number 15, both high and low quality and 23 I think. Horrible. Played it on Linux with two different MP3 players, mplayer and xmms (they might use the same decoder however).

But it looks like they redid their MP3's. They all have been uploaded or recoded again about 12 hours ago. I didn't save any of my downloads else I could have send you a link and really proven the point, but that the file date-time of the MP3s has changed is enough proof.

Now it's just the normal concrete ceiling, just listen to the opening of Symphony 15, argghhh. I suppose it sounds just like one of Pliable's overplayed LP's...

Anyway, it seems people can now safely download them so I now support the download Danish campaign!

May I also suggest that the next radio station that tries this uses Ogg instead of mp3? Classical music isn't suited for mp3.

Pliable said...

Berend, it is surprising, and flattering, who does appear regularly in my server logs as well as Danish Radio ... the BBC, CIA, Iran Atomic Energy Institute, UK Houses of Parliament, record companies, orchestras, Norman Lebrecht, quite a few US PSB stations, and many more.

But the most important are readers like you who listen to music and provide the vital checks and balances.

Thanks for your contribution on this (and other) topics.