“Think of us as your small local record store, run by a team dedicated to helping you find the very best music”, reads the welcome page of Universal Music’s new music download store.
Launched first in the UK, with international versions of the site expected in the coming months, Lost Tunes is attempting to tap into a bygone era where music fans regularly scoped out local record stores looking for rare gems. “Lost Tunes comes with a secret stash of records you can’t find anywhere else online” the welcome blurb boasts. “Anywhere else online” being an indirect reference to Apple’s iTunes, hence Universal’s choice of name.
To that end, tracks are offered as mp3s, encoded at the higher bitrate of 320kpbs, and compatible with almost any digital music player, including iPods.
Lost Tunes’ catalog currently consists of 602 “handpicked albums”, of which 130 you won’t find offered as a download anywhere else. The initial batch of digital-download exclusives include The Walker Brothers’ ‘Live In Japan’, three albums by the hugely acclaimed Comsat Angels, Bill Fay’s eponymous album, UK blues Nine Below Zero, Mellow Candle and Oriental Sunshine, reports Distorted-Loop.
In my own exploration I delved straight into the Blues section to “discover” a few classic recording from Muddy Water’s pianist Otis Span. Nice.
And yet I didn’t make a purchase. Why?
At nearly £8 ($16) for an album, equal to CD prices, I hesitated long enough to exit “impulse buy” mode. Instinctively I want digital downloads to cost less than physical media, especially when cutting out the “middle person”, in the case of Lost Tunes. However exclusive those tracks might be.
If Universal wants to usher in a ‘new era’ in the sale of back catalog material, as the company claims, then lower the prices just a bit. Please.