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.


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