"Just like your local record store", Universal launches Lost Tunes

“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.


last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

4 Responses to “"Just like your local record store", Universal launches Lost Tunes”

  1. Exclusivity will not be what saves the music industry. It will only drive their fans further underground where I assure you these albums are available. Instead of trying to ripoff fans by overcharging for proprietary content, they should be supporting the services that we already use and at a reasonable price. $16 an album worked when they controlled distribution and was able to fix prices, but with so much great undiscovered music and so many places to get it, there is no way I’m paying $16 to a studio, when I can buy my music directly from the artist and have them get the lionshare of the profits. LostTunes will turn out to be an appropriate name for their service, because fans will never end up finding this music.

  2. dc crowley says:

    Shops from individual record labels are a waste of time. Sure the pricing is crap BUT! This is the internet at it’s best. Finding obscure stuff, finally having the chance to get it. I’ve been on this site for the last half hour! When was the last time you spent that long on a website. I’m older than I want to be and totally addicted 🙂

  3. dc crowley says:

    I’m wondering if these mp’s are laced with DRM. If that is so this is doomed and unicversal is being ****ing stupid. down at the bottom on the left hand column it says download to up to 3 of your computers. Idiots! Next please.

  4. Steve O'Hear, editor says:

    @ dc crowley

    I’m pretty sure there is no DRM since they play on iPods, and mp3s don’t have DRM built-in. I think what they mean is the site allows for each track to be downloaded 3 times. Maybe. 🙂

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