The record business is imploding. Why does everybody seem to be starting their own record label? If any of the following describe your whole business model, you’re probably not part of the solution:

1) Record companies are losing money. As a non-profit, this is our core competency.

2) We already have a bunch of recordings. The rest is easy, right?

3) Everybody else is doing it.

4) Nobody would release our album.

5) Because of the Internet.

6) It will really annoy our old label.

7) There was nothing on TV.

8) The union said we could.

9) To gain international acclaim.

10) Nobody plays Beethoven 5 like we do.



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  1. Jimmy #
    August 21, 2009

    You’re right – so many new labels appearing. I love the enthusiasm of the last point “Nobody plays Beethoven 5 like we do” but surely if that were really true they’d have no problem releasing it on an established label…

    Seems to me to be a kind of death throe of the classical industry. Let’s keep doing the same thing guys – this is only a temporary glitch and if we keep going, head in the sand, there’s really no need to look up and see the horror that is the classical music industry!

    A radical shift is what’s needed I think. Focusing on quality not quantity, newer artists (or at least not the same A list, uber-expensive conductors/soloists), more downloads rather than hard copies, gently steering things in a new direction to reach a new audience. Notice the words new, newer etc.
    Why is it so damn hard for the industry to step out of the sludge of the last 60 years and actually try something different. Preferably with substance! Not photoshopped, crossover, best-of tat.
    Naxos had a great model, although boy did they go all out on new releases!

    It’s a tricky situation but the classical music business is just that – a business. It needs to be run as such, not as an old-school network jolly old fun way to spend one’s day. Lose the crap, keep the musical integrity and build new audiences (through any means possible, initially at least); a 3 point plan that will surely reap rewards, especially if you’re an established label with some cash in the bank. Naive seem to have the right idea and all kudos to them…

  2. Collin J. Rae #
    August 21, 2009

    Please include: Cuz I got a great deal on the recordings of this old now defunkt label. = )

  3. Megan K. McClary #
    August 21, 2009

    Hah! “There was nothing on tv”. Is there ever ANYTHING on tv?? And to no. 3, I say “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you do it?” You may as well if you’re starting a label for the above reasons.

  4. Anon #
    August 21, 2009

    Let me guess:

    1 – San Francisco Symphony? Chicago?
    2 – Metropolitan Opera
    3 – Hallé
    4 – Toronto Symphony Orchestra
    5 – Philharmonia
    6 – John Elliot Gardiner
    7 – Berlin Phil
    8 – Saint Louis Symphony
    9 – Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
    10 – Philadelphia? All of the above?

    Do I get a prize?

  5. properdiscord #
    August 21, 2009

    Jimmy – You’re right, as always

    Collin – That’s one of the most frightening developments of the last couple of years – early hi-fi recordings of mainstream repertoire dumped on the market for no money are an everyday reality in the digital market. Prices in that segment of the market will inevitably trend towards zero, and businesses that depend entirely on selling popular repertoire to undiscriminating buyers need a new plan, and they need it soon.

    Megan – I’m not saying Anon is right, but it is true that there’s nothing on TV in Germany 🙂

  6. August 25, 2009

    Do you think there are any good reasons for individual classical musicians or ensembles to self-release their own albums — either hard copies and digitally, or just digitally?

  7. properdiscord #
    August 25, 2009

    Hi Christina,

    I think there are a lot of good reasons for artists to release their own records, both physically and digitally. The trouble generally arises when they do it for a reason other than because they’ve got a really good idea for an album that genuinely contributes something new to the recorded music canon.

    An artist often has more complex criteria for the success of a recording project than simply “did it cover its costs”, so records that would seem uneconomical to a traditional label suddenly make much more sense to the artist.

    I have, though, seen quite a few artists who are disappointed with their record sales. Sometimes, they have fallen for the fallacy that there are greedy, incompetent people working at record companies therefore nobody at record company does anything useful. They don’t understand how much work goes into creating and sustaining a market for an album, and are surprised when, without this work, their album is released to little fanfare.

    These days there are a great many talented individuals who have left their labels and are working on a freelance basis – so many, in fact, that it would be quite possible to hire all the people that would have once worked your album at a major label to give your independent release many of the advantages that would have once been conferred by being singed to a major, without the associated loss of creative control.

    When people tell me that they’re planning to start their own label, the first question I ask is “what are you want to achieve?”

    I’m quite often disappointed to discover that they haven’t really thought about it.

    In the world of marketing, we’re often reluctant to identify clear criterion for failure, but an honest understanding of our goals is essential to success in any enterprise, particularly when entering a market as turbulent as this one.


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