The cantankerous and controversial Norman Lebrecht’s new book titled Maestros, Masterpieces, and Madness depicts the classical music recording industry as being on its deathbed. This is definitely the case on the major labels, but the independent labels are in fact quite active in creating new and interesting work.
I have done many recordings for smaller labels like Naxos, Chandos, and Arabesque. While the model (and the compensation) is pretty dissimilar to what major orchestra musicians experienced during the heyday of classical music recording decades ago, it is good to see new projects undertaken and new avenues explored on the independent labels.
Kettle’s statement that “production is down to just 100 new discs a year – many in the crossover repertoire …” is belied by the profusion of new classical releases which come into the market each month. In 2006 Naxos released 238 new classical recordings and new issues from other independent labels easily numbered in excess of 1,000. All these recordings – and the large number of back-catalogue titles – are now available to the public not only through high street stores, but also through retailers and, in many cases, digital downloads or online streaming: consumer accessibility and choice is broader then ever before.
You can visit the Kettle review of Lebrecht’s book here.
One of the commenters to this post remarked:
Does anyone really still care about the “majors” anyway? Their astounding lack of imagination has hastened their own entropy. Example: the Cleveland Orchestra hasn’t made a recording in nearly a decade, and when they finally get the wherewithall to do so, on DG no less, what do they announce? Beethoven’s 9th. The yawns are deafening. I can’t remember the last time I bought a major label recording.
I wholeheartedly agree. Getting excited about any major label release with a prominent U. S. orchestra inevitably results in this reaction. I really DON’T care about a new recording of Beethoven’s 9th, and anyone expecting the public to get excited is similarly deluded.
The old model is done for classical music recording–finito. Don’t expect to make a killing on recordings in this industry. Use the new methods of distribution and dissemination (iTunes, streaming, podcasting) to promote your music. Put out a podcast highlighting your ensemble, with interviews, tracks, historical information, and the like. More and more orchestras are beginning to take this forward thinking approach. Check out, for example, what the Philadelphia Orchestra is doing with their new podcast.
You may also want to check this book out by Lebrecht: