Classical music hardly figures at all. But Placido Domingo is out to change all that. The singer, one third of the Three Tenors, is joining the board of GMN.com, the website that offers live performances of classical music, opera and jazz.
Earlier this year, Global Music Network netcast its most ambitious performance yet, the first live video of an opera from the Mariinsky Theatre, home of the Kirov in St Petersburg.
For Mike Lubin, the chairman and founder of GMN, the project combines two passions: computing and music. `It`s not just a question of putting music on the net. The whole point is to make use of the unique qualities that the internet offers to produce a rich multimedia experience.
`The net opens up the possibility of video, of links to biographies and histories and of bringing together extraordinary combinations of artists and programmes.
`This is more than just a music site, says Lubin, `we want to be a portal for performing arts on the web.`
That means that the site also offers users the chance to buy music, either by downloading or from a catalogue or by compiling personal choice CDs drawn from existing records or exclusive recordings held in GMN`s online archive.
Domingo says the link will help him to offer young musicians an opportunity for global exposure and to create innovative programmes and content.
As well as joining the board, Domingo also joins GMN`s `family of artists` which includes the conductors David Atherton and Charles Mackerras, pianist Peter Donohoe, violinist Tasmin Little, soprano Amanda Roocroft and Peter Maxwell Davies, the conductor and composer. It extends to orchestras, festivals and venues including the Kirov, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; the Cheltenham Festival, and London`s Wigmore Hall.
Atherton and Donohoe helped found GMN last year. Their reasons for exploring the net as a means of creativity reflect very much the same concerns as those pop musicians who have turned to cyberspace. Fewer artists were being offered exclusive contracts with record companies and earnings generally were falling just as customers were becoming dissatisfied with the limited offers of record stores. The addition of jazz to the site came later with the signing of Dr Billy Taylor, largely at the request of users.
In 18 months the site, that has just had a $12 million injection of venture capital, has built up a database of live performances that includes more than 200 hours of music and 50 hours of video. It has formed relationships with Intel, Liquid Audio, Microsoft, Real Networks and several others to ensure it can use the latest technologies to deliver music and video to users. It has even signed a pioneering agreement with the Musicians` Union in Britain to protect the artists` interests in internet-streaming and downloading.