James Jolly (editor, Gramophone) writes about a new website CLASSICS and JAZZ, which is offering only downloads but of most of the Philips, DG and Decca labels among many. There is GOOD news (the 8000 albums currently with 1500 to be added monthly but BAD news – not IPOD compatible – yet so they say. However its still a formidable competitor to ITunes (whose Search feature is extremely poor). Read on.
…one of the most exciting new developments on the download scene, the launch of http://www.classicsandjazz.co.uk by Universal’s UK office, UCJ (which also “A&R”s some of the most successful crossover – which we are now encouraged to call “light” classical – acts on the market).
The site is vast, with 125,000 tracks representing 8000 albums, and UCJ promises to add 1500 new tracks each month. There is, thanks to the Philips catalogue, every note written by Mozart that survives – some 195 hours of it! And with Deutsche Grammophon and Decca as the other classical labels this is a serious classical site indeed. All the music is offered at 320KBps (as compared with iTunes’s 128). The search ability is impressive and is rather less like shooting in the dark, the situation that prevails at iTunes and elsewhere. However, there is a “but”. If you have no intention of transporting your music around with you, this is not a concern at all; if you do, then your iPod won’t work. There are numerous MP3 players out there that are compatible with the WMA (Windows Media Audio) format used by UCJ so it’s not the end of the world, but with 90 per cent of the world’s MP3 players being iPods, it’s an awkward situation (but one I wouldn’t be surprised to see resolved during 2007).
I like this site a lot: it’s great to be able to navigate with ease (and there are all sorts of genre searches if you wish); there’s a nicely nostalgic feeling to seeing all those sleeve images (though I’d prefer them a mite bigger – remember all that talk of silver surfers!), there’s a fine piece on Elgar by our own Jeremy Nicholas (from which I was appalled to learn that the Bank of England is celebrating the great composer’s 150th anniversary by removing him from its £20 note), and there are numerous opportunities for you to have your say about the music you are buying – and if you want to read what we had to say about each release you can click on the “Professional Review” button and read the Gramophone verdict. And, unlike other sites, you can sample a whole minute from each track rather than the customary 30 seconds (during which, of course, every Bruckner symphony sounds identical).
… Later this year, we are promised video, podcasts and numerous other tempting initiatives.)