According to a spokesperson, the MSO is the first American orchestra to distribute previously unreleased recordings through the online sellers.
For the next 90 days, the new label's recordings will be available exclusively through Apple's iTunes Music Store, which is widely acknowledged to be the industry leader. Later, the recordings will also be sold through Yahoo! Music, Napster, RealNetworks Rhapsody, and other outlets.
MSO Classics will distribute live recordings made over the last 35 years for the MSO's radio broadcast series. Initially, the label will release 14 works, including the world premiere of Robero Sierra's Symphony No. 3 ("La Salsa"), captured at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts last month. Other pieces in the first batch of releases include Beethoven's Fifth and Second Symphonies, Brahms' First Symphony, and works by Dvoršk and Haydn. Some 300 recordings are slated for eventual release.
At the iTunes store, the recordings are priced from $2.97 to $9.99 per work. Some movements are for sale at 99 cents; others can be purchased only as part of the larger work. The online store's recordings can only be purchased using Apple's free iTunes software, and they can be played only through the software or through Apple's iPod music players. Recordings purchased through other music stores generally allow for playback on competing music players, but not on the iPod.
"The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has always been a pioneer—in the world of new music, through innovative programming, and by being the first American orchestra to visit Cuba," said MSO music director Andreas Delfs. "Now a new age for classical-music distribution has begun, and we are pioneers once again."
According to the MSO, the label was made possible by an industry-wide Internet distribution agreement signed with the American Federation of Musicians in 2000 and the MSO's contract with its musicians, which allows for revenue-sharing, as opposed to advance payments, for electronic recordings.