Naxos Launches Jazz-Only E-Commerce Site, ArkivJazz: Exclusive

Miles Davis performs at the Newport Jazz Festival
David Redfern/Getty Images

Miles Davis performs at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 2, 1967 in Newport, R.I.

The music industry is once again growing (overall volume grew 3% in 2016, per Nielsen), and that means more breathing room for niche markets -- like jazz, for instance, which will receive a genre-exclusive home for physical product online, thanks to Naxos of America’s just-launched site ArkivJazz.com. Currently, it's the only jazz-exclusive online retailer stateside, and will serve as an analog to Naxos's existing property, ArkivMusic.com (the largest retailer of classical releases besides Amazon).

“Naxos has been branching into jazz music over the past five years, and it’s become easily the second-largest genre that we distribute,” says Naxos of America CEO Jeff Van Driel. “There's a demand in the market -- we don't want to suggest that there's going to be a resurgence of CD sales, but we know there’s a lack of places to purchase physical product. And for these two genres in particular, that’s important.” As Nielsen’s year-end report for 2016 shows, nearly 50% of jazz and classical album sales are still physical.

ArkivJazz.com offers a destination for consumers looking for jazz across labels, eras, and media, with an emphasis on completeness -- for example, a listener looking for John Coltrane’s classic A Love Supreme will find four different versions of the album, spanning CDs, vinyl, and reissues. Aside from its thorough catalog, jazz aficionados and newcomers alike will be able to search for music by format, label, artist (including all appearances as sidemen), style and even song -- if you fall in love with Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” the site will show you versions by everyone from Thelonious Monk to Jason Moran.

“Another thing is that because our music library platforms [Naxos’ streaming databases for classical, jazz, and world music form the core of many library and academic online collections], we're a leading creator of data,” adds Van Driel of the site’s meticulous catalog. “Jazz is similar to classical in the sense that there are numerous fields that a connoisseur would want to search, and we have that expertise in-house, which we’ve brought to the retail platform.” The absence of accurate metadata and liner notes are among the biggest drawbacks for those who consume music digitally -- streaming services offer many obscure records, but they’re often mislabeled.

Soon though, says Van Driel, ArkivJazz will expand into digital music sales as well, offering the same curated and discovery-friendly experience for those who may already be disk drive-less. “We'd want to have MP3, lossless, and HD downloads available, because our digital distribution business has grown considerably in the HD world, especially for classical and jazz,” says Van Driel. “In other genres, there's this huge increase in vinyl sales, but in classical and jazz it's not nearly as pointed. Instead, we see that growth in HD, because our consumer wants a premium experience, and the high-resolution download is better than vinyl.”

“We're trying to make ourselves a destination,” says Van Driel of the new site, which also features a partnership with Downbeat (those who become VIP members of the site receive a free subscription, and in the future there may be editorial cross-promotion). “If all we're trying to do is switch consumers from Amazon [the largest retailer of both jazz and classical] to ArkivJazz, I don't think that's a value add. Ultimately we're in this business to grow the genres that we serve -- and the opportunity now is greater than it's ever been.”

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