Roll over rock 'n roll -- Beethoven rocks!!
Beethoven beats Beatles in BBC downloads. Now how's that for good news? I wish more people who haven't listened to classical music take a chance and give it a try. It's not highbrow -- it's just high beauty. Try it -- you'll like it -- what can it cost you?
Beethoven (1.4m) beats Bono (20,000) in battle of the internet downloads
Music industry forced to take note as composer's complete symphonies outshine rock acts in online chart
Forget Coldplay and James Blunt. Forget even Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which, in the version performed at Live8 by Sir Paul McCartney and U2, has become the fastest online-selling song ever. Beethoven has routed the lot of them.
Final figures from the BBC show that the complete Beethoven symphonies on its website were downloaded 1.4m times, with individual works downloaded between 89,000 and 220,000 times. The works were each available for a week, in two tranches, in June.
Sgt Pepper could well end up as the best-selling online track of all time. But its sales figure of just 20,000 online in the two weeks since it has been available contrasts poorly with the admittedly free Beethoven symphonies. (Sgt Pepper cost 79p on the iTunes website.)
To put another perspective on the success of the Beethoven downloads, according to Matthew Cosgrove, director of Warner Classics, it would take a commercial CD recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies "upwards of five years" to sell as many downloads as were shifted from the BBC website in two weeks. The BBC has been stunned by the response - so much so that its director general, Mark Thompson, opened his annual report with Beethoven's inscription on the score of the Missa Solemnis: "From the heart ... May it go again to the heart!"
The classical music industry has also been shocked since the demand for the symphonies seems to defy gloomy predictions about the shrinking appetite for classical music.
Roger Wright, the controller of Radio 3, said it was "clear that people had been coming to Beethoven for the first time" through the Beethoven downloads. This was discernible from the fact that the symphonies nos 1 and 2 had a high take-up compared with no 3, the Eroica, a much more famous work.