I want to second Alex Ross' praise of Anne Midgette's Times piece
about classical music online. Not two years ago, I wrote an article for Early Music Magazine about the dark, frustrating odyssey of trying to download concert music (often a piece was simply listed as "motet" or "gigue," with no composer or ensemble listed, reasonable for the layman who does not really care, I suppose, but frustrating for the genuine enthusiast). As research, I went to ten or so sites with specific agendas--downloading, say, Furtwangler's version of Beethoven's Ninth or any version of Mozart's 40th--and, alas, more often than not ended up pounding my head against the keyboard. What a difference now, as companies get clued in to the vast potential for profits and dissemination these sites offer. (For many, this music is something of a shameful secret they come to know slowly, and as we all know, trips to the bins can be deeply frustrating with so many options.) What I think gets people is the ability you've got on iTunes to sample the goods--many might not know how much they do
know the standard repertoire, and buy on recognition. I am now not only amazed by how much I can actually pay to download, but how easily I can see what I am getting.
And thank you Anne for telling folks to not knock bloggers. I believe very strongly that, with coverage disappearing from the mainstream print media, blogging will take on a larger, more important role in all of the arts. Alex and his progeny (myself included) now offer a wide range of educated opinions from all sides. It is important, and will become more so.
Just today in the Times,
Daniel J. Wakin has a piece
about the New York Philharmonic, in concert with Deutsche Grammaphon, will be making their concerts available for digital download. This is largely because many of the players have agreed to wave their flat fees, opting instead for shared profits (which we all know will likely mean very little money, if any). So for that, we have the members of the orchestra to thank, and let's hope that this is not a unique experience but that other orchestras follow suit.
I also do want to say that Anne cited (wisely) Joseph McKesson, who is my boss at MTV, they who will, come 21 March, offer URGE!, a content-driven alternative to iTunes. When she says that there will be a classical component to this site, I will be the "informer" guiding those who wish to know more through the morass.
The real reason andante.com failed is that it was an amazing idea, too big and brilliant to succeed, Icarian in its demise--that and it attempted, by its swank and all-too-highbrow appearance, to charge for discs or content or concerts that are available elsewhere without fee. The lesson: opulance isn't everything, even for the highest of brows. But as this for profit venture was collapsing, much new Web content on this topic was evolving, proving that, in light of this accumulation of swelled ground, The Death is on the wane. Cassandras who imagine the demise of this one ambitious site as being synonymous with the end of this tradition need only investigate further to find out just how untrue that is. Or, in the words of Mark Twain: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."