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Yes, you read that right! You can get the equivalent of 8 CDs of Beethoven Piano Sonatas for the low, low price of $9.99 (includes PDF of booklet). My guess is that EMI is trying to get as much as possible out of this set which was originally scheduled to be realeased in four 2-disc sets. Well, they did the first 2-disc set (not that long ago), and now the complete set is out. I can't justify the cost of the CD version, but this is one of those bargains that may reveal a few gems to justify the small outlay.
The bit rate for these is 256 kbps, and the sound is not bad. Like the original release of the first two discs, the piano is a little bright at times.
These are probably the fastest versions of the sonatas you've ever heard. Her technique is formidable, but her youth gives away much in depth of feeling. She's not shy about what she thinks is right. These are not wishy-washy performances.
I downloaded this and converted it to constant bit rate 256 kbps MP3 with dBpoweramp batch converter (my Oppo BDP-95 doesn't display the tag information in the original m4a format), and I was good to go.
While I'm sure this will pay off for EMI in the long term, I think they're playing with fire. For people who infrequently buy classical music recordings (or go to concerts), it sets the expectation that classic music should be priced cheaply.
Many people, myself included, think that music downloads, particularly of classical music (and don't get me started on e-books), are simply too damned expensive vis-a-vis the physical product. Once something is available for download, the label's expenses are virtually zero; with physical product, there are costs of printing and manufacture, distribution, storage, repressing, etc.
I think that EMI is experimenting to see if it makes fiscal sense to slash download prices, and they may be on to something. I know at least a dozen people who have downloaded the Lim set, and I don't know a single person who has bought, or intends to buy the physical CD's.
BTW, her set is good, if you like your Beethoven brash, fast, and percussive (which I do). Definitely worth $10, and I may even spring for the "real thing" if the price drops to what I consider a reasonable level.
Bargain download hunters might also be interested in the first volume of Bavouzet's Beethoven set, available at Amazon for $6.49 (three CD's worth):
To me, this is the future of classical music recording. EMI wants to establish Ms. Lim as a major star, and selling her Beethoven set is a good way to do that. I don't need any more Beethoven piano sonata recordings, but I might pay a minimal price for a complete set, and if I like it, I might go see her in concert and buy her recordings of contemporary or unusual repertoire.
After all, Schnabel and Backhaus aren't about to return to the stage or record any contemporary music.
Again, short term it works, I agree, but I'm thinking about the long term implications of constantly pushing prices down. Eventually you go to a point where you cannot make any profit. If there is no profit in recordings, no one is going to make them.
When the price goes too low to make a profit, it stops going down and starts going back up. It's called the market.
Eventually people will expect and believe that low prices are fair prices.
Further, there is such a huge back catalogue that demand can be satiated with releasing those recordings at increasing lower prices. That's what we're seeing right now. It's cheaper for the major labels to release heavily discounted budget boxes, e.g. the new Toscanini set, than actually make a new recording.
"Eventually people will expect and believe that low prices are fair prices."
If low prices are all that people are willing to pay, then the market has spoken.
Prices rise due to demand increases. Then it's time to invest (or get out) to get back in equilibrium.
However, this market is hardly competitive and this is a pure pricing strategy on the part of an oligopolost.
On the other hand, as the OP correctly pointed out, while the cost of making and marketing information may be high, transmitting that information (per unit) costs almost nothing. Given this problem (pointed out by Arrow), there tends to be under-investment by producers in information, and it is optimal. Hence, copywrite laws.
Observe, don't think
And now that anyone, including the musicians themselves, can produce recordings and sell them on the internet, the few remaining "major" labels like EMI add less value and accordingly must charge less to keep any market share at all. I suppose there is still some prestige in being with the EMI label, but I wonder how long that will last.
That set is going for $75 preorder at Amazon. Maybe $50 at iTunes?
Seriously, I agree on the pricing structure issue. New recordings are usually much more expensive, but back catalog costs have really bottomed out, making collecting even more enjoyable! :)
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