Silver discs online
A look at some record company websites
I've often been struck by the variety of quality in online information
provided by the classical record labels, large and small, and thought that
this week we might visit some of them. If anyone from these companies happens
across this, I hope you'll take my mischievous comments in the generally
positive and constructive manner in which they're meant!
Judging by the addresses printed on the latest Naxos discs, this famous
budget label now seems to be promoting the address below in favour of the
more obscure hnh.com address used until recently. Not one of the
most glossy looking sites, but many interesting and extensive areas to explore,
and refreshingly outward-facing, with e.g. links to other sites. (Try finding
any links to other sites from amazon.com!)
Warner Classics International's website (representing Erato, Finlandia,
Nonesuch, NVC Arts and Teldec labels) has a clean professional look, but
it's only a set of links into separate sites for the different labels, each
with a different style, and unfortunately none quite as cohesive as the
first page that we see. The Nonesuch site looks promising, but isn't available
I've heard good things about the customer service provided by Cala Records,
the company run by Australian conductor Geoffrey Simon. Site-wise, the design
is reasonable. Some pages are a bit slow to load -- notably the catalogue,
which is quite varied, and possibly a little out of date -- why not change
your 1998 copyright dates, Geoffrey? As you might expect, Mr Simon features
as conductor on many of Cala's orchestral discs.
As this next site downloaded, something about the arrangement of the
blank boxes on my empty screen told me that I was going to like this site.
fleurs de lys is nicely and ecomically designed, but the information
(although in French and English) is a bit scanty, and -- horror of horrors
-- that dreadful phrase 'under construction' has the 'about us' page to itself.
What a shame!
A similar name to the above, but a very different style -- chunkier, more
workmanlike web design, and a bit too crowded with styles and colours for
my taste. Fast loading, and reasonable information. Fleur De Son Classics,
based in New York, was founded by guitarists Joanne Castellani and Michael
I expected great things from the Swedish company BIS. The entry page
is simple and effective, but once I selected 'new releases', the style changed
to something a little messier. Lots of information here, stretching back
to 1996 releases, and back still further if you're prepared to trawl the
composer or artist indexes. See if you can find the picture containing the
company mascot, Sibelius!
The Swiss label Claves Records has a smart home page, and keeps a reasonable
look whilst traversing the other pages, but the site navigation's a little
bit messy. Headings like 'CDs' but then 'other CDs' leave me scratching
my head a little as to which link to select. Lots of information here, and
Nimbus has a simple looking site. Easy to navigate, although a little
plain, and the pages are all quite big, making them slow to download. A
big collection of real audio sound extracts will give you a rather jumpy
(if high quality) experience if you're on a slow dial-up connection, because
the extracts are encoded at rates needing a faster connection.
You might not think of the London Symphony Orchestra as a record company,
but this forward thinking organisation is recording its concerts and selling
them online under its own label LSO Live. Nice design, reasonable information,
and some real audio links to longish files which will play uninterrupted
unless you have a slow dial-up modem connection. Watch out for those tasty
buttons with '3D' drop-shadow effect, though -- they don't work so well on
a non-white background.
Chandos Records' site certainly has a memorable style, with red and white
writing on a black background. Whether or not this is elegant is a matter
of personal preference. Try printing a page and see what happens! An easy
to navigate site, though, and the search facility works well.
Czech company Supraphon has a nice looking website, enhanced with good
photos, and it manages to keep its style as one explores this dual language
site. The pop-up advertising windows are a bit annoying though, and site
navigation could be improved -- it's a shame that there are no links from
the artist pages into the catalogue.
CPO has a solid bright and well-thought-out German design, and it seems
easy to navigate as well. No evidence of anything in English here though,
which is a shame.
Hyperion's site is bursting with detailed information about each CD in
the extensive Ted Perry collection, allowing you to read the liner notes
and listen to samples before making your purchase. There's a nicely distinctive
design here too, with the unmistakeable Hyperion logo and subtle colouring.
Only the blue underlined text links look slightly out of place, to my eye.
harmonia mundi (like e e cummings) has a successful set of sites here
-- a different language and style depending on which country you select.
sound extracts are available in real audio and mp3 flavours. the style of
the single home page works better for me than that of either the american
or european sites' styles, but everything works well.
If I had an award for 'cohesiveness of style', then it would go jointly
to Hyperion and this next site, Deux-Elles, because the styles of both sites
spread successfully throughout their pages.
Deux-Elles is an independent label, distributed by Nimbus, and using
minimal path recording techniques and simple microphone configurations.
Until I met Deux-Elles' managing director at a recent informal concert by
one of his recording artists, flautist Kathryn Thomas, I imagined the company
run by two young latin women in the south of France. Reality places the
company in Reading, in the UK. And my last mischievous comment of the day
... what a shame this professional looking site and domain address redirects
to deux-elles.freeserve.co.uk (presumably to keep the cost down).
Finally, although we visited Sony Classical's fun site just recently,
it gets a place in this list because of its extensive and clever use of
the tricks of the web design trade -- automatically-playing sound clips,
pop-up windows, java script, animation, newsletters, and an online radio
show. The home page looks and feels very expensive, although the gloss doesn't
spread in quite the same depth to the other pages.
So which are your favourite record label websites? Why not Let
Copyright © 13 March 2001 Keith Bramich,
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