ArkivMusic, an online retailer that launched in 2002, is out to reverse that trend and restore as much of the deep catalog as possible. In addition to stocking every classical CD in print, it now offers what it calls ArkivCDs: reissues of out-of-print CDs produced on demand for the consumer. The project began three years ago; as of this writing, the company has made more than 3,700 recordings available in this way.
Eric Feidner, ArkivMusic’s president and cofounder, says that the ArkivCD program grew out of the company’s original mission, which was to build an efficient distribution system for classical recordings. “We built this database structure geared to classical music that makes it easy to find every available recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which is something you can’t really do elsewhere,” he says by phone from his office in Connecticut.
“When we started ArkivMusic – and it’s only progressed further since then – there were actually more recordings in our database that were out of print than in print.” The brief shelf life is usually explained by the expense of printing and warehousing a title that may sell only a few hundred CDs per year, if that.
Feidner and his cofounders, who have all logged several years in the retail music business, realized that the labels’ woes were an opportunity. “We felt that the way to do it was to license the recordings from the label and, rather than doing standard manufacturing replication runs for them all, we would store all the components digitally – the music and the packaging elements,” he explains.