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Indie Itinary

img  Tobias

In a recent article for the Telegraph, Adam Sweeting picks up a popular theme: The surge of small-scale classical labels. According to Sweeting, these are quickly gaining pace and turning into the business model for the future.

There are three arguments to sustain his thesis:

  1. The costs of technology have drastically fallen. Even though talent and equipment have become far from obsolete, the necessary means have become available to a wide group of people and in most cases without having to rely on external sources such as banks.
  2. Orchestras and Individuals with personal clout can circumvent traditional distribution channels and serve customers directly. Thereby, they can save a lot of money compared to the traditional approach of teaming up with a major label. The LSO has managed to sell an incredible 400.000 copies of their CDs over the course of four years (and counting! and growing!) and other orchestras have been quick to follow suit.
  3. There is no fixed way to do business. Labels can record artists the traditional way, sell CDs that musicians have already recorded themselves or act as a distributor for others. That way, they are in the position to grow quickly and avoid huge overheads. Like other industries, classical music is turning into a service sector which can use outsourcing as a tool for efficiency.


The first point is rather simplistic - as anyone can tell you, excellent equipment is still as expensive as it ever was and if you don't believe us, go looking for some decent monitor boxes and then try to hide your tears. The other two arguments, however, make sense and are indeed important. Still, we would like to counter with two points of our own:

  1. It is not really the fact that Orchestras are making money that is so remarkable. Whoever was behind the LSO's success could have made it anywhwere, because he understood the basic idea of branding: Giving customers something they really find useful and marketing it in a modern way. Every pop artist can tell you that the place and time to sell albums is after the concert, so the only thing that has happened is that this wisdom has finally made it to the Classical Indie Scene (expect big artists to have been selling albums after their concerts for ages already).
  2. The majority of the smaller labels is irrelevant and will stay so. They will only just make the 400-500 copy threshold that Sweeting talks about to break even. The majors are in a phase of re-orientation but they have far from given up the market. The Indies and their spirit have been absorbed into the majors' culture in the Rock industry and the same can be expected in the Classical scene.


Which is not to say that these are not exciting times. Quite on the contrary, this perceived "chaos" is probably the true model of the future. But we defy the notion that the small labels are taking over.

And now you decide for yourself.

Source: The Telegraph



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