Passionato: Download Site Launches
Passionato is the Web's latest classical-music download site, its aim to thoroughly replicate a "corner record store" experience with a reach far beyond the corner. According to their press release, Passionato offers classical music lovers the largest available collection of CD-quality, DRM-free classical music downloads on the Web. With no subscription, no membership requirements, and nothing to sign-up for, Passionato provides a wide-ranging collection of recordings from major labels (including Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Virgin, and EMI Classics) along with numerous independent labels (such as Naxos, Chandos, Telarc, and BIS).
Designed for classical music lovers, Passionato caters to the entire classical music enthusiast community by offering recordings in digital download form, free of digital rights management (DRM) software, transferable to any portable device, and burnable to CD. Downloads will be offered both as high quality 320kbps DRM-free MP3 files and in the CD-quality lossless FLAC format. The Passionato store will also offer an unprecedented level of recording information made up of original editorial content as well as reviews, profiles, and recording information provided by All Music Guide, Oxford University Press, Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, the Penguin Guide, and Fanfare. Of course, vitally important to making sure consumers find the artist and repertoire they are looking for from the vast number of recordings now available, Passionato offers the ability to search their extensive catalogue of recordings using multiple fields and intuitive search functionality.
Though the site offers music in high quality 320-mbps MP3 format, the Passionato store is dedicated to offering customers the easiest and most effective way to experience lossless CD-quality FLAC files from the largest library of such files anywhere, in any genre of music. With unsurpassed sound quality, gapless play, and backwards compatibility (a FLAC file can be used to create an MP3 of any quality for any player), FLAC is the most versatile music format available. Passionato is supporting FLAC because it has become the most widely supported lossless audio codec. Passionato also believes that audiophiles can depend on FLAC for archival-quality digital storage because it is the only open-standards, lossless format unencumbered by patents, and FLAC has been implemented in a wide spectrum of open-source projects.
Opened in a soft-launch phase in February of this year, Passionato has found that FLAC has indeed proven to be the most popular format on the site, representing nearly two-thirds of total sales. Passionato also offers a free player that can play MP3 and FLAC files. Created for Passionato by MediaMonkey, the Passionato Player can play files and arrange a library as well as sync up to devices like iPods and all mobile phones. All MP3 tracks purchased on the Passionato service can also be played and stored on popular music players such as iTunes (and iPod), Windows Media, and Real Player. FLAC files can be played on a variety of players, including the Passionato Player by MediaMonkey. For Mac users, Passionato has asked MacWorld writer Kirk McElhern to create a guide for downloading and converting FLAC files into the Apple Lossless format that can then be played on iTunes and transferred to Apple's music-playing devices, like iPods, iPhones, and iPads.
"Passionato is a classical boutique founded and run by the very audience it aims to serve," says Passionato founder James Glicker. "I wanted to have a place where I could access, search and organize CD-quality downloads of virtually any classical recording available, now about 40,000 and counting, in a way that provides complete information, a comprehensive catalogue, and intuitive search--basically everything the classical collector needs. I believe we have done just that. No other site can offer what Passionato can."
Passionato Partners with Gramophone
Passionato launches with a partnership with Gramophone magazine, one of the preeminent classical music brands. Passionato will be the sole downloading partner for Gramophone. This relationship includes Gramophone and Passionato linking to new and archival reviews on Gramophone.net, as well as reviews found in Gramophone magazine. "Since our first edition in 1923, Gramophone has embraced every technological development that has brought classical music enthusiasts closer to the greatest performances," says Gramophone's Martin Cullingford. "The Internet is the natural extension of that – both through downloading, which offers more music than you could listen to in a lifetime at the click of a button, or by allowing Gramophone to reach an ever-wider audience through news, features, our forum and our digital archive. It's the music itself of course --the artists, the composers, the recordings--that always remains our central focus. Passionato.com--with more than 300,000 classical music tracks from the world's leading labels--draws all this together in a download shop designed for, and by, classical music enthusiasts, which is why we're very happy to be partnering with them." Visit Passionato at www.passionato.com
The People at Passionato
Passionato was founded by James Glicker, an American music industry legend who has worked in all aspects of the business in such diverse posts as first President/CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (where, among other accomplishments, he appointed Marin Alsop as Music Director); President of MusicNow (now part of Napster); and head of worldwide marketing at BMG Classics (now part of Sony Classics).
Rebecca Davis Public Relations
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.