The BBC pissed off a slew of record labels when it put all nine of Beethoven's symphonies online for people to download earlier in the year. You'd think the labels would be grateful that the BBC was turning new audiences on to classical music, but, of course, the labels thought otherwise, completely missing the point of the downloads -- which even included introductory explanations before each symphony to help people learn about them. The BBC is planning to play 10 straight days of Bach's music next month on one of its stations, and it's succumbed to the record labels' whining (registration required), and won't offer complete downloads, if it offers any downloads at all. The British record-label trade group was upset that the BBC had offered the Beethoven downloads without consulting them, and it's unclear either why it's any of their business, or why they think it so damaged their business. While the symphonies were downloaded 1.4 million times, just 17% of the downloads were from the UK, and in any case, probably had a positive impact on record sales. Plenty of recordings of Beethoven's symphonies were available before the downloads, and there was nothing stopping people from buying them. Although the entertainment industry likes to inflate its loss claims and assumes that every download equals a lost sale, it's not the case. What's more likely is that people that never would have bought a Beethoven CD downloaded the recordings, and either decided they weren't interested, or decided they liked what they were hearing and became a fan -- a new fan that might buy another classical recording sometime. The assumption that because somebody will download something for free means they'd pay for it were the free download not available is completely bogus. Record labels repeating it over and over won't make it true.
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