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“Music should flow freely…there should be an ability to get what you want when you want it…and I’m not sure you’re protecting that much with DRM…I think it puts a lot of obstacles up…the consumer is buying those files, and they have the right to do whatever they want with them…we [the industry] really have to think hard about what are we protecting… and are we really afraid of our consumers to the extent where we basically don’t trust them…”   —  Jim Sturgeon, CEO of Naxos USA

As an (albeit rusty) classically trained musician, I’m a big fan of this music genre and have a broad selection of classical music at the house.  Unfortunately, at maybe 4% of the overall market, it’s not a genre that most of the population cares much about.

So it’s even more unfortunate that the only significant record label that actually “gets it” is Naxos, the world’s largest classical music label — as opposed to the often reprehensible tactics of the rest of the industry (harassing people with idiotic lawsuits, using rootkits for DRM, etc.).  

And there’s a practical effect as well. As digital analyst Phil Leigh says:

…Classical is a disproportionately large share of digital music sales. Naxos finds that the classical genre market share doubles online.

Naxos endorses the advantages of DRM-free digital files. Their music is sold on eMusic in the dot-MP3 format with no DRMs. While some piracy may occur, Naxos feels that the enhanced user utility a DRM-free file provides outweighs the minimal piracy that may happen.

About 20% of Naxos revenues this year will be from digital music downloads or online subscriptions. That’s about three times the proportion for the major labels like Sony, Warner, Universal, and EMI. 

Now, taking the other side, it’s perhaps enlightened self-interest on the part of Naxos, since classical is probably less likely to be pirated than the latest pop hit.  Nevertheless, their pragmatic CEO does seem to have a good understanding of what the customer actually needs and wants.

You can listen to an interview with Jim Sturgeon, CEO of Naxos, here (MP3, approximately 33 minutes).

Alex Eckelberry