I’ve gotten no official announcement from their press department, but the above notice, translated from French, has been shuttling around Twitter since last week.
ECM had resisted streaming, but the above is an admission of throwing in the towel, recognizing that you can’t fight the endless flow of digital media. That leaves a small handful of notable labels that have turned down streaming: Tzadik, Steeplechase, Hyperion, High Note.
UPDATE: Key from the offical press release is “In recent years, ECM and the musicians have had to face unauthorized streaming of recordings via video-sharing sites, plus piracy, bootlegs, and a proliferation of illegal download sites. It was important to make the catalogue accessible within a framework where copyrights are respected.”
Fighting the future is a tough proposition, even for such an established and successful label as ECM. I continue to have mixed feelings about streaming myself; as a music critic, it is invaluable, especially since a lot of producers see me as too small-time to bother with (I will never forget a response I got from New World Records before I started editing the Rail music section: “Who are you?”); and I also want to see musicians get paid—and the makers should make more money than the skimmers (label executives, the services themselves, etc.).
I do not discourage anyone from using a streaming service, rather I would encourage you to use one to help decide what music to buy, and then buy it. What you get with ECM, of course, is one of the premiere catalogues of contemporary music. Not everything is currently available, and it’s not clear if they will be submitting their archives in stages, or put a lot out there but not all.
Still, as of today, you can listen to substantial amounts of Keith Jarrett’s solo, trio, and quartet recordings (including Sun Bear Concerts, At The Blue Note, and his classical recordings); Anouar Brahem’s albums, including his new Blue Maqams which is one of my best of the year; all of Pat Metheny’s ECM releases; the great Nik Bärtsch (who you should be digging); the Art Ensemble of Chicago; and their Arvo Pärt recordings, which are the essentials in his discography. Absent so far are lable linchpins like Colors of Chloe and most Jan Gabarek’s output, which leads me to think that this will be a process.
There’s lots of great music out there, please sample freely and then make sure to buy.
UPDATE: And it’s official, via press release from ECM this morning. Check out this page to guide you to their catalogue at each service. Of interest is that this is all going through their distributor, the UMG conglomerate, and that the services specifically are Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, Qobuz, and Tidal. Digital distribution is going through Deutsche Grammaphon, and ECM is going to start selling CDs in Australia (they weren’t already?).
UPDATED: Fixed Spotify link (which meant parsing the misleading instructions from WordPress.com), and filled it with Thomas Demenga’s new CD of the Bach Cello Suites.