Linn Records is going to start offering the back catalogue of Universal Music through its digital download site. The recordings will be offered as in high-quality digital format. Now, for people that don't like mp3 quality but want a down-load then this is great news. You can get downloads in a sound quality superior to CD.
But it also represents another step. Universal Music own Decca and Deutsche Gramophon, whose back catalogues are truly legendary. Not all the recordings have made it to CD and even then when they do CD's come and go alarmingly. If you don't buy a re-issue when you see it, then you are going to be feeling rather annoyed with yourself.
A few years ago (well may be more), there was a Kirsten Flagstad edition issued on CD. One of the volumes included live recordings, notably the famous recording of her singing Strauss's Four Last Songs at the Albert Hall (with Boult conducting, I believe). It was a terrific set and went onto my, must-buy-when-I-can-get-round-to-it-and-have-the-money-list. Of course, when I did get round to looking for it, it was gone (or only availble as an import at a vast price!). Like-wise, there was a period when I used to regularly browse Amazon France, because they seemed to offer a far better selection of Regine Crespin's recordings than were ever available here.
Its no wonder that I dream of a day when you can download anything you want, at a price!
This new agreement makes you wonder whether the possibility for download on demand for the entire classical back catalogue might be possible. Just imagine being able to go onto a digital download site and being able to browse every single commercial recording that Callas made and deciding which to download. Now Callas is probably a bad example, because her recordings are generally available. But we can all think of other artists, whose records are only patchily in the catalogues.
Its about time the the big record companies, instead of shying away from digital download, found a way to leverage their catalogues. Just think, the entire Deutsche Gramophon back catalogue available at the click of a button!