Classical Record Labels Should Include Download Codes with Big Box Sets

We’re well into the Big Box Set era in the classical music industry. With individual CDs selling in minuscule numbers, the only way classical labels can stay afloat is to sell big box sets of composers, labels, periods, and more.

These are great for music fans and collectors; they give us a chance to get a lot of music at a very low per-disc price. You may spend, say, $75 on a set of 50 discs, only about 20 or so of which you’re interested in, but it’s cheaper than getting those discs separately.

Or, like me, you may have some favorite artists whose music you’d like to get without going for individual discs. For example, I’m a fan of the pianist Alfred Brendel; when a set of his recordings was released, I immediately ordered it. I had many of the recordings, but the cost of the set was much less than it would have cost to get the others that I wanted. (In addition, these sets often feature remastered recordings, so better than older ones that I already own.)

But the problem with these sets is that the classical music collector who has a digital collection needs to rip all the discs. I just received the new Mozart 225 set, which contains the composer’s complete works on 200 CDs. There’s no way I’m going to rip all those discs, but I am going to listen to them all, at least once, on CD. (To be honest, only about half of them are worth ripping; there’s a lot of bland Mozart music.)

I don’t understand why record labels don’t offer download codes. While they may not sell all of these box sets digitally – it seems that only parts of he Mozart set are available by download – they certainly have the digital files. They could offer digital downloads the same way many DVDs and Blu-Rays do. A download code would probably get more people to buy the CDs, because they’d know that it would be more flexible having both options.

I know that classical record labels are hurting, and that these box sets are helping keep them afloat. Ensuring that listeners can use the music the way they want would make purchases a lot more useful.