Use of Naxos versus CD borrowing at the Pendlebury

Naxos Music Library (streaming audio, subscription service)

Naxos Music Library (streaming audio, subscription service)

The project that I took during my stay in Cambridge was intended to compare the use of the sound collection of the Pendlebury and the Naxos Music Library, a collection of over 630,000 tracks of music online. The result of my comparison is very significant and interesting: on a sample of about 1,100 CDs borrowed at the library during a period of about 10 months, 64% of the compositionsrecorded on these CDs are also available through Naxos.

CD cover Don Giovanni / Mozart, with Bryn Terfel (Decca)

CD cover Don Giovanni / Mozart, with Bryn Terfel (Decca), @ Pendlebury: CD.C.358

Within the genre of operas, for example, 70% of the compositions are located on Naxos too, while only 30% of the borrowed CDs are unique, i.e. these compositions are only available on physical carriers of the library. This can perhaps be explained by the lack of some essential accompanying materials, supporting the listening and studying aspect: on Naxos one lacks the libretto of the opera accompanied by its translation.

For instrumental music (orchestral, chamber and piano music for example), 77% of the compositions borrowed at the library is also present on Naxos. As in this kind of music there are no texts, it is interesting to note that despite online availability, the public seems to favour CDs as well. So why? I would put forward the hypothesis that the users feel too constrained by the use and lack of online support. In fact they also must have the necessary network access, be at their computer, and get the headphones, and so on. Evidently, instead of listening to streaming audio online, classical media, such as the CD, are more convenient. It should perhaps be considered whether there is an educational value of the physical object itself too: the CD. It is probably part of our primitive way of learning to go through physical contact with the objects of reality.

In conclusion, it is undeniable to say that the results show that despite the offer of Naxos, the readers of the Pendlebury prefer to continue to visit the library and borrow CDs available. These statistical results must certainly be explained and interpreted through a deeper investigation of from users need, possibly in form of a survey next autumn.

But I would add that despite the statistics, I think that Naxos is a rich study and work tool, and importantly that it can be of great help in the world of education, not only at the university, but also at earlier level of music education. I consider Naxos a complementary support to the classic sound collections of libraries worthy of being taken into consideration.

Federica Rusconi Castellani
(Head of the Department of Musicology and Music Score at the Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire of Lausanne; at the Pendlebury between March and July)


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8 Responses to Use of Naxos versus CD borrowing at the Pendlebury

  1. Thanks for this post, a very interesting topic to study. In your library inductions do students get shown how to use Naxos? When I was studying music (not in Cambridge) we didn’t get a demo or anything like that, and I think that’s partly why a lot of new students preferred the CD to “this Naxos thing” at first, only to realise at some point in the second or third year that it’s actually very easy to use.


    • musicb3 says:

      Thanks for your post, Annie.
      Good question. We don’t – I think – in detail cram this into a very intense induction session for new students – yet (?). I will consider it. My guess, however, is that some students also prefer to have the booklets, and as our CDs are stored in “closed access”, they need – at least – order them to see them. Then they might as well get them issued. But we will have a questionaire for our readers in MT term 2011, and hopefully get a better idea of our local users.


  2. Jenny McParland says:

    I did a very similar study on the Music Faculty Library at the University of Oxford for my MSc thesis last year by combining analysis of usage statistics for Naxos and CDs with findings from a questionnaire sent to all library users. The results were pretty interesting and suggested that there was a significant difference in user behaviour relating to audio discovery between the different user types (eg. undergraduate, postgraduate or faculty staff). Undergraduates actually most often ranked Spotify as their first port of call for audio discovery for academic purposes (rather than Naxos), yet postgraduates and staff preferred to use the CD collection. However, the vast majority of users surveyed believed that it was important for the library to maintain an extensive CD collection, particularly for contemporary music recordings (which can be rare and expensive).

    I’d be happy to send my thesis to anybody that is interested!
    Best wishes

    Deputy Music Librarian
    University of Oxford


    • musicb3 says:

      Thanks, Jenny. That sounds very interesting. Could you please email me your thesis (I’m at cg474 [at-signthingy] cam [dot] ac [dot] uk. As Federica indicates, we want to follow-up her work with a questionaire in Michelmas Term 2011. I will keep you posted. Many thanks for your interesting comment, Clemens


  3. Apart from availability of compositions on CD or otherwise, I wonder (a) how many people re-purpose the CD recordings once borrowed – something they can’t do with Naxos – and (b) whether we’ll notice a difference in borrowing/streaming habits now that Spotify has restricted access?


    • musicb3 says:

      Thank you, Karen for your comment and thoughts.

      Re (a): Yes, the ‘re-purposing’ is an issue, also certain genres like, say, operas mean that streaming a whole work might push your bandwidth/internet allowance, so a CD will just avoid that.

      Re (b): I am a bit surprised by you saying that Spotify has “restricted access”. I always thought that even getting the free-PLUS-ads service has always been restricted; in a sense that it wasn’t just a matter of signing-up, but being invited by a friend. Had this changed some time in the past? What is the issue/are these restrictions? I would be grateful for some enlightenment.
      Many thanks,


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