Musicmaker.com recently unveiled its new web site featuring expanded classical music offerings. Music lovers and collectors can now access a library of more than 60,000 licensed classical tracks and create custom CDs from their computers. Among the company’s classical offerings are tracks from labels such as EMI, Naxos, Koch, Newport Classic, Platinum, AVC, Nimbus, and Vox.
To organize, present and curate music in each genre, Musicmaker.com has enlisted some of the leading experts in each field. Anne Midgette is Musicmaker.com’s classical music editor; she also covers music and culture for such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and Opera News.
To create custom CDs at Musicmaker.com, the user chooses music from any genre and may personalize their CD with a title and cover art. A 10-track CD is $14.95 plus shipping and handling, and arrives in the mail within a matter of days. In addition, visitors may download songs in any category from a collection of over 100,000 tracks via MP3 or Microsoft Windows Media format at $1.
Currently, of the 60,000 classical titles currently posted on the site, about half were written after 1900, according to Midgette’s estimate. Part of her job is to create six suggested compilations that run on the site for two weeks. One of the compilations posted in August was entitled All-American Classics, and included the works of Barber, Foster, and John Philip Sousa. This type of compilation is obviously intended to reach a wide audience; for the more experienced listener, the site offers a promising collection of recordings for download. Classical composers whose works are posted on the site range from John Luther Adams to Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, with some pleasant surprises in between, such as Kenji Bunch‘s recent Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra. There is also an extensive jazz catalog available on the site.
“The classical recording industry doesn’t do much for new composers,” Midgette said in an interview, “whereas this site will allow different kinds of music to find a niche audience without resorting to ‘crossover’ recording. It will be possible to market music that reaches only thirty people.”
Much like Musicnotes.com, Musicmaker.com has the luxury of purchasing and posting music that may sell only a few copies. It is obviously more cost-effective to produce one digital file that can be downloaded by multiple users than to print many CDs that will sit in a warehouse gathering dust. Musicmaker.com is also able to rope in the tentative new-music listener, the person unwilling to spend twenty dollars on a CD she may not like, but quite willing to give one or two tracks of an unknown piece a try.
Midgette hopes that the ability of Musicmaker.com to market new music in a cost-effective way will encourage record companies to revitalize their commitment to more esoteric projects. She is also looking for situations in which recording companies are not involved at all. This could benefit a well-known composer, for instance, who wants his or her “pet project” to reach a national audience, but fails to elicit interest on the part of major recording labels.
Unfortunately, despite the possibility of posting as-yet-unreleased recordings, Musicmaker.com is not about to function as a clearing-house for the homemade CDs of emerging composers. Midgette stressed that the editors of the site try to maintain a well-groomed “profile” by carefully selecting music on the merit of its high quality. They also only post those tracks that they think will sell at least a few copies.