As though we didn’t have enough things to spend our money on in this house, unfortunately I’ve recently discovered several sites where I can download classical music MP3s. This helps out immeasurably with the “minority recording” problem, where I want to get a single piece without buying a two- or three-CD set.
Amazon’s isn’t specifically dedicated to classical music, but still has quite a bit of good stuff, a lot of it from EMI. Individual tracks can be downloaded usually for less than a dollar.
eClassical has an enormous range of composers (over 800) to choose from. It’s not the place I’d go for the Austro-German core repertoire, but as many of the recordings come from BIS the Scandanavian composers (Sibelius, Nielsen, Gade, Grieg, Alfvén, Stenhammar) are heavily represented and with works not available anywhere else. The price of individual tracks again is quite low.
Deutsche Grammophon has now opened up much of its enormous catalog for downloading. This is the place to go for the core repertoire performed by its finest interpreters. The cost of individual tracks is higher ($2-5), but the sampling rate is 320 kbps, much higher than the other two (100-250 kbps), leading to a higher-quality recording.
The cost of individual tracks is low enough not to mind much, except after you’re out $20 or $30! Now I don’t want anyone e-mailing me with other sites, or go suggest to the rest of the Universal Group (Decca and Philips) or Sony/BMG that they go and do likewise…