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Deutsche Grammophon Launches Download Site

by Kevin Sutton

Effective at midnight Central European Time on November 28, Deutsche Grammophon achieved a giant leap into the twenty-first century by making more than 2400 of their recordings (some 600 of them out of print until now) available in high quality digital downloads. The site, is impressive indeed with its detailed information, its vast selection, a free download for signing up for the newsletter and more. 

Being the dutiful technophile that I am, I waited anxiously for the hour to arrive when I could dive into DG heaven and start downloading tracks. One must give any big online enterprise the benefit of the doubt in its first hours of launch, but I must say that I was pretty annoyed at the “system error” that prevented me from making my purchase for the first three hours of attempts. Finally, I made it through, buying the Beethoven “Kreutzer” sonata performed by Vadim Repin and Martha Argerich. 

To say that these sorts of services are the wave of the future is a no-brainer. What is irksome about DG’s offering is their obvious arrogance in pricing. Tracks range from US $1.29 to as much as US $4.69 to purchase. This makes each set of downloads offered equivalent to the price of a compact disc of the same material. The site contains lots of media information and program notes about the releases which you can print out if you like, but still, the thought of paying five bucks for an MP3 file, when other labels such as Naxos offer them on Rhapsody() for 89¢ is pretty ridiculous. A bit of research shows that Rhapsody offers the same DG tracks for download at a price very close if not equal to the DG website. A comparison with the asking price for a track from Virgin Classics, Telarc and Naxos shows that DG and their siblings are gouging the public. 

While I welcome the high audio quality of the DG product, and I am delighted to have so much of their impressive back catalog at my instant disposal, I must rail against the high price. Given that there are no warehousing, shipping, packaging or distribution costs for electronic files, I cannot find a single excuse to charge full retail CD prices for a digital download save greed. It simply seems that Universal Classics are displaying an inflated sense of self-worth when many other classical labels are selling their MP3 downloads for less than a dollar per track, regardless of length. 

Having said that, I still must praise the enterprise, and the high audio quality of its product, both of which are impressive and comprehensive. One can only hope that other labels will soon follow suit. It is becoming more and more a reality that one’s stereo system will soon consist of a laptop and a good amplifier and speakers. Being a frequent traveler, I depend more and more on my computer as a compact and seemingly endless source of entertainment. A small investment in a set of good computer speakers has made my Hewlett Packard scarcely distinguishable from the 4000 dollar stereo system that takes up half my living room. Viva progress! Now DG, lower your prices and get real here! We anxiously await your reality check and the opportunity to do business at a reasonable rate. 

Kevin Sutton



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