Interview: James Glicker, CEO, Passionato: Clicking For The Classics

imageimageJames Glicker has a fascinating bio – president of MusicNow before AOL (NYSE: TWX) sold it to Napster (NSDQ: NAPS), a VP who helped GeoCities go public and then to Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), plus a BMG veteran and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra CEO.

With his latest overture, Passionato, launched last week, Glicker is trying to sell classical music online as DRM-free, high-bitrate files, the idea being classical fans are real audiophiles – as Glicker says in this audio interview…

With 12 staff based in London’s Shoreditch and funded by Creative Capital Fund, Saffron Hill plus a US individual, Passionato will best iTunes by offering hi-fidelity tracks from Universal, the biggest classical label, while iTunes has only EMI, Glicker said. His come at 320Kbps MP3s or lossless FLACS; anything else is just “FM radio”. There will also be more more data – like venues, dates, recording engineers – for lovers of the genre, who are notriously pedantic on such individual details. More after the jump…

DRM-free: With P2P sharing so high, isn’t it a risk? “We and several of the big labels did some quantitative testing and found that classical music lovers don’t share their music nearly as often on P2P networks as pop music people do. They have a lot of discretionary income and come from a generation – over 40 or 50 – that views file sharing as stealing, unlike some of the people in their early 20s who have lived under the internet only and think it’s fine.” What’s more, that metadata is likely to be unreliable from P2P, Glicker said.

Bypassing labels: The site will let orchestras, most of which don’t have label deals, release their own recordings. “They don’t have the capability to build their own download site, they don’t have the same bandwidth or storage costs we do. We’re in discussions with quite a few orchestras right now.”

GeoCities inspiration: Parallel to the store, a selection of user blogs, reviews, forums and profile pages will come with ads sold on top. “(GeoCities) was really the prototype of the community. There would’ve been no need for MySpace or Facebook if Yahoo had developed GeoCities further, because it was really way ahead of the game. One of the things we’re going to use, in particular, is a team of volunteers that will help police the site and bring the quality up – you might appoint someone to supervise all the Brahms activity on the site and be the resident expert. That helps us keep editorial costs down while keeping our consumers active.”

For more on the changing landscape of the music industry, go to our EconMusic conference at the Natural History Museum in London.