Professional Classical Musicians

02005-01-16 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

The obsolescence of classical music labels

Deutsche Gramophon pulled the plug on John Eliot Gardiner’s plans to record the complete Bach cantatas. So how did he respond?

‘At the end of 2001 we put together a CD compilation from the tapes and sent it to lots of people who had helped with the project. We raised £40,000 from people who had come to concerts.

‘Most of it was in £100-£200 chunks from people who had been in the audience, plus a couple of large chunks. Then we received £130,000 from a donor.’

The Prince of Wales is the project’s patron; donors include American arts philanthropist Alberto Vilar, charitable foundations and corporate sponsors…

The cheaper model of recording live from concerts (as does the LSO’s label, LSO Live), rather than from expensive and lengthy studio sessions, also points the way forward.

The performers are paid on the basis of royalties, a far cry from the fat contracts handed out by record companies in the heyday of the industry.

Ms de Sabata estimates that in order to recoup costs and allow them to continue putting out the CDs from the cantata project they need to sell 4,000 to 5,000 copies each.

‘Our orders and preorders suggest we are going to make it,’ she said.

Gardiner has now launched his own label and plans further recordings; here is the full story. But you can see the future: more live recordings, more not-for-profit recordings, and a smaller role for music companies as the relevant intermediaries.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

You forget it would also mean a smaller role for musicians. Orchestras would have more amateur musicians, which is how it used to be a couple of hundred years ago, less professionals at the top of their game. There is no doubt that orchestras are much much better than they used to be because they are professionals who have the time to concentrate on their art, rather than squeezing a few hours between work and dinner.

I don’t believe that classical labels can afford to pay out fat contracts and haven’t for quite a few years. The reason it is so expensive to record orchestras these days is labor, properly paying the musicians.

Now maybe people hate the profiteering of the big record labels so much that they want to get rid of the professional classical musician as well, but I think that’s crazy.


  1. Flavio

    I am not too familiar with this industry but if I had to take a guess, based on what is happening to other industries (computer, software, film making, etc.) I would suggest that more and more artists will consider utilizing labor and musicians from less expensive markets such as Brazil. During one of my last visits to Sao Paulo I attended to a concert by the local orchestra (Orquestra Sinfonica de Sao Paulo and I was very, very, very impressed . . .Great musicians! I would take them any day if choices were between amateurs and expensive professional musicians . . .

  2. Ottmar

    That trend started many years ago, when record companies started recording the fabulous and much less expensive orchestras in Easter Europe. As they are getting absorbed into the European Union, prices will go up…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




@Mastodon (the Un-Twitter)