Donald Clarke responds to me:
>>I don't believe lack of money is the central issue. I believe it a
>>question of changing interests of society.
>Don't forget that in the old days when everybody gave lip service
>to classical music and Toscanini was a household name, the music
>business was much smaller. ... but the very long tail, served by
>the Internet, contains a lot of classical music. ... The NY Phil
>has just made its first live recordings in many years, the Chicago
>S.O. is about to start releasing on its own label, and the London
>S.O. has been selling its own CDs for some time now.
First off, the internet...I believe it has made, as it has for every
product with a niche market, classical music far more economically viable.
However, I cannot say if I have any notion of questions of the quality
of content and the per capita market share overall.
What I do find interesting is to compare...Gary Thal, a supplier of
CDs to libraries, issues a monthly list of new releases...I wonder if I
should ask him if those lists could be posted, even if only for reference
purposes...but I see that things have changed dramatically from the days
of the Schwann Catalog. I still have a file of at least one Schwann
from each year from about 1963 till its demise. Clearly, by comparison,
the major labels are, with the exception of some reissues, for the most
part, out of the business. Much of what is issued consists of historic
performances and/or reissues. There is an abundance of vanity pressings.
Thankfully we have miracle labels like cpo, BIS and Naxos which give us
far more new releases of unrecorded repertoire than we ever had in the
>Your own local Austin S.O. Is doing very well I hear, Karl (say
>hi to Peter Bay for me).
As to the orchestra, indeed, it is sounding much improved, however, the
other day I listened to some dubs I made of its performances from the
late 50's. In those days, University faculty and students were members
of the orchestra, and, it seems to me, played very well. This next year
we are facing part two of a Beethoven cycle (which was the idea of the
Board). For me, this is not progress. I believe the conductor needs
to truly be allowed to be the artistic director...and I will pass along
your regards as we are having lunch tomorrow.
Then, I consider that our new concert hall, which opens, according to
the most recent news, in late March of 2007, still needs several million
for its endowment. Out of a metropolitan area population of over 1Million,
the number of contributors to the new hall has been around 3,000. I am
not sure what that says.
>Maybe the core audience for classical music is still there, just
>not well served by the record companies and the broadcasters.
I believe there is still some audience, but it seems to me that the
expection for high profit margins limits what product can be brought to
market. In some ways it seems to me that the available product can, in
part, define the product.
>If I had the money to gamble, I would open a little classical CD
>shop on the cheap, out of the high rent district, to see how many
>customers would seek me out.
Which is what I have tried to do in a similar fashion with my record
label. I have yet to recoup the original investment, and with decent
sales for a few titles, and with no paid staff... it is indeed a curious
As for your local record shop...we still have our Russell who is well
informed and has a small bit of shelf space for classical music in our
local shop, devoted mostly to everything other than classical music
music, Waterloo. He has his loyal followers and still makes enough to
pay the rent...but not always enough to get his car fixed.
The business model has changed. It seems to me that when the classical
music business placed the emphasis on the word business, it lost something.
And with trying to milk the old business models to death, it seems to
me that it has strangled some of the art out of the music.
Even if classical music was given lip service in the past...maybe it was
just me, but at least the names of a Toscanini, a Horowitz, a Heifetz
seemed to be part of somewhat common vocabulary...or maybe it was just
common to those I ran around with...or maybe it was just marketing?...
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