Classical music giant Deutsche Grammophon will make the bulk of its catalog available online from tomorrow when it relaunches its Web site and presses the button on a new digital download store.

At launch, the new DG Web Shop will offer nearly 2,500 classical albums, of which more than 600 titles are no longer available as CDs.

Over time, DG, a division of Universal Music Group, will revive its entire catalog, which traces back to the company's inauguration in Hanover, Germany, back in 1898.

"At this point, we're trying to do it at 1,000 titles at a time, using some common sense of what the public likes," Michael Lang, president of Deutsche Grammophon, tells Billboard.biz. "That goal and that timeline will be dependent on how we see the consumer embracing true back catalog. The beauty of a catalog rich company such as DG, the idea of being able to digitize and make available continually all of those titles is a no-brainer."

The online store will go live in 40 territories, and will service rising digital markets such as China, India, South Africa and Russia.

"Its not a standalone music store, it's part of a Web site which gets more than 250,000 unique visitors each month," adds Lang. "It's a Web site with a buy-button, and I think that's what makes it unique and exciting."

And as part of UMG's ongoing DRM-free download trial, all titles will be offered in MP3 format, at a transfer bit-rate of 320 kilobits per second.

Customers can buy tracks in U.S. dollars and euros, depending on their residence. Individual titles with a playing time of up to seven minutes will be priced from $/€1.09, while regular-length albums will sell for between $/€10.99 and $/€11.99.

In a move to exploit the growing digital market for classical music, Universal Classics & Jazz launched its own download service in January, boasting what it claimed was the largest online destination for classical and jazz genre downloads, starting with more than 125,000 titles, including works from the DG catalog.

"There's a misconception that the old consumer does not go onto computers. They go onto computers for everything now," comments Lang. "There may have been some hesitation about 'am I a downloader'. But it's so easy to download music now. The key issues for a consumer who has been buying and enjoying classical music for a great part of their life is audio. Our regular downloads are at a greater degree of audio quality than has been the standard in the digital marketplace, and we're going to gear for higher and higher audio quality as the technical community can start delivering that in a more timely manner."

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