A Digital Symphony

Classical music from Computer to HiFi

Music publishers and labels

There are quite a number of music publishers / labels which publish classical music for download, some small and some very large. In addition there are a number of download stores with a focus on classical music. This article considers how the downloads provide for the needs of the classical music lover. There are four main requirements here:

  1. A variety of available formats. MP3 is commonly available, but if you want full CD quality (plus flexibility of tagging) then FLAC is much better. Audiophiles with superlative hearing may want even higher quality formats (e.g 24 bit FLAC).
  2. The full sleevenotes automatically included as a high quality pdf.
  3. All the relevant information stored in tags in a consistent structured manner, although note that this is less important if requirement 4 is met ...
  4. The release should be in MusicBrainz's database

The table below considers various publishers/labels/download stores. Most provide the opportunity to listen to music samples. Some publishers operate music download stores which carry other labels (e.g. Chandos with The Classical Shop and Naxos with Classics Online). Albums may be available at multiple sites, therefore, at different prices and in different formats sometimes. As the author is based in the UK, that influences the list below. Note that stores which do not publish downloads in FLAC are not listed below (see http://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2012/jun/14/digital-music-flac-sources for further commentary on this - bottom line is that, if it seems too cheap to be true, then it is). For another view, see http://carstenknoch.com/2012/02/where-to-buy-classical-music-downloads-updated/ .

At the time of writing it appears that none of the labels ensure that their releases are on MusicBrainz, preferring to leave it to the user community. This is a shame, and will hopefully change in the future. The MusicBrainz "Classical Editor Toolbox" post also has information about label sites.

Details of musicians stored in "MUSICIAN_CREDITS_LIST" tag.

Label

Formats

Sleevenotes

Tags

Comments

Web site

Hyperion MP3, FLAC (16/24 bit), ALAC (16/24 bit) pdf included with most albums. Downloads automatically with tracks.

FLAC: fairly well populated. Composer is in "Last name, First Name (Dates)" format so may need amending.Band tag not used, Soloists/performer not used. Genre generally set to "Classical" and Period not set.

A favourite. Fairly user-friendly although tags could be improved a bit. http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk
Chandos

 MP3, WMA, wav, FLAC (16/24 bit), AIFF

 pdf included with many albums    Chandos includes a large number of labels all available through The Classical Shop. See https://www.chandos.net/Labels for details of these labels. https://www.chandos.net/
Deutsche Grammophon  MP3, FLAC  DG's own site just has track listings  ? Genarally, albums need to be purchased via iTunes / Amazon / Presto Classical  http://www.deutschegrammophon.com
Resonus AAC, MP3, FLAC (16/24 bit)   pdf and high-res artwork with all albums  ?  "The world's first solely-digital classical label"  http://www.resonusclassics.com/
Naxos  MP3, FLAC  

See
http://blog.naxos.com/2012/04/lets-talk-about-metadata/ for info about Naxos label tags.

 Naxos includes a variety of other labels - see https://www.naxos.com/labels/default.asp

Not many downloads - it may be better to use Presto as they are available there.

https://www.naxos.com/
eClassical (store) MP3, FLAC (16/24 bit)  pdf commonly available   US site, priced in $. Big list.  http://www.eclassical.com/

Presto Classical
(store)

MP3, FLAC  pdf included with some albums Varies according to label Some releases are physical CDs only, but downloads are also available http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/

Linn Records

MP3, FLAC (16/24 bit), ALAC (16/24 bit)   pdf included with some albums  Fairly basic tags Includes a number of other labels in the store.  http://www.linnrecords.com