Following in the footsteps of Deutsche Gramophon, a service called Passionato is launching today, which will feature very high quality DRM-free downloads of classical... er... classics. It could prove popular - as previously reported, one in three classical music lovers owns an MP3 player, and download music, as well as ripping their classical CDs to MP3. One in five legally download tracks.
Let's talk about audio quality first. Passionato will offer tracks in both 320kbps MP3 and in lossless FLAC format. Both feature incredibly high audio quality - something demanded by many classical music fans. Many modern pop songs feature large amounts of compression that aren't so easily battered by MP3 processing, and sound fine at lower qualities. Classical tracks, on the other hand, are a little more fragile, and sound awful when compressed, losing all the nuances of the sound. It's great that Passionato understand this.
Secondly, the lack of DRM is important. It means that fans will be able to use their music however they want - on almost any brand of digital music player - and will be able to burn tracks to CD, should they want to. The death of DRM has been one of the biggest victories for consumers in digital music in recent years.
Lastly, Passionato also has a bunch of Web 2.0 style community features, much like Dilettante. Users can post their favourite albums and tracks to the biggest social networks, and integration with social bookmarking service del.icio.us is also built in. There's also a forum, and a recommendations engine.
Passionato looks good (though is it slightly off-centre of the page? Or is that just me?) and doesn't seem too expensive either, offering a couple of albums on the front page for £7.99, as well as one for just £1.99. They're also doing a special offer at the moment - offering ten free tracks when you sign up. Awesome. If I was into classical music, I'd be all over this like Deborah Voigt on a cream bun.