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Presenting: Gilbert Hetherwick

img  Tobias
The fiercly debated merger between Sony and BMG has lead to new names abound, starting, of course, with the name of the company itself - which will henceforth be called Sony BMG Masterworks. But the president of the new conglomerate is not exactly a new face: Gilbert Hetherwick has been a leading figure at EMI for years and ran BMG Classical for 15 months, before taking over as head of the joint operation. Hetherwick seems to be the right choice at the right moment for several reasons.

Firstly, he has experienced success in different environments. He felt just as much at home at EMI, which boasted many cross-over triumphs as with BMG, where he lead a campaign to focus on the Classical core repertoire. The latter seems to be his choice for Masterworks as well. The reason for this apparently "backwards"-approach is the stronger focus, which avoids confusion and distortions (such as one record selling a million and another selling a few hundred copies). This will mark a different strategy from Peter Gelb, Hetherwicks predecessor.
Secondly, he is no stranger to the Internet and emphasises the possibilities the medium is offering instead of pointing to its dangers. Virtual stores, such as itunes, could in his eyes serve as a place to check out new music and buy records which would make no commercial sense as a CD in a jewel case.
Thirdly, he defies all critics, who claim there is no money to be made with new Classical Recordings - to Hetherwick, it's all a question of the right repertoire and sensible marketing. The back catalogue will stay a strong part of Masterworks' strategy (about a 100 re-releases will be issued each year), but with 20-25 new recordings, there is no fear of the well running dry.

Of course, it all boils down to execution. Some of the goals presented by Mr. Hetherwick will remain formulas, until one can actually hear the music - such as his desire for artists who "treat recordings as art". But in any case, the future of Sony BMG Masterworks seems much brighter than many might have expected.

Source: The New York Times
Source: Playbill Arts


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