I deleted this post because, in retrospect, it could easily be construed as an attack on Eleanor Careless, which was unfair.

My intent was for it to serve as a caution to PR/marketing professionals who might consider promoting their artist by denigrating the rest of the field. It was not intended as a warning to journalists that a band of angry pedants awaits anybody who tries to write something nice about a violinist. That doesn’t do anybody any good at all, and “older guy shouts down young woman for voicing an opinion on the Internet” is, I think we can all agree, not a great look, regardless of the motivation.

Of course we need to be able to talk about what is and isn’t true, but being enthusiastically rude about it is a rhetorical device best saved for the people who are really asking for it.

If you find yourself looking for freely available data on music and entertainment sales and popularity, I recommend:

BPI Awards Search – Look up gold and platinum albums/singles in the UK.

RIAA Database – Look up gold and platinum albums in the US

IFPI – Publishes data on global recorded music sales

Nielsen Soundscan – Publishes a useful annual and mid-year report on US record sales

Billboard – US charts based on a mixture of sales and airplay

OCC – UK charts

Grammy Winners Search – Look up an artist or album to see what they’ve won

Wikipedia’s top-selling lists are a good starting point, because they reference a large number of sources for reliable sales data.

Box Office Mojo – US cinema box office receipts – Broadway receipts



Post a comment
  1. May 18, 2012

    Welcome back, doofus!

  2. May 20, 2012

    The positive in this is that it’s in ‘Topman’ magazine, which probably doesn’t get a lot of classical in it usually…

    • May 20, 2012

      ok, I see you’ve already said its in a retail magazine. Nevertheless I think you’re being over-the-top pedantic, and it has to appeal to people who read the magazine, who I’d say probably *are* going to have lots of those posh/boring/crusty notions of classical music.

      • May 20, 2012

        It’s not unusual for readers to have preconceived notions, and publications frequently pander to these, but that’s not an excuse to make stuff up.

        The case for “there are no classical superstars” is weak and the stuff about classical album sales is simply untrue.

        If she had understated the album sales of a living artist, that artist could sue for libel.

        It’s safer to defame the dead than the living, but Mozart isn’t the only one who stands to lose from this sort of falsehood going unchallenged. The classical record industry generates about a billion dollars a year, and live performance generates much more. When we go out looking for media coverage or sponsorship, it doesn’t help our cause if people have been misinformed about the relative popularity of what we do.

        I would hate to be one of those people *coughthatsoundslikenormanlebrecht* who complain when classical music doesn’t get on TV, and then complain when it does because they could have picked something better.

        I’m pleased the magazine decided to cover classical music. How they do it is their business. I don’t care if they make subjective choices that I wouldn’t have made – that’s up to them – but this article could have worked just as well without making stuff up.

    • May 20, 2012

      That is indeed a positive.

      • tendergrasp #
        May 21, 2012

        It’s one thing to treat a subject lightly, but to go on in such a meaningless, baseless way (while suggesting a more-rounded, musically educated standpoint) is intellectually offensive. The original author’s cultural ignorance and isolation is obvious. She knows only (or at least, refers only to) her xfactor-centric iPod playlist and assumes her taste and range is typical of the entire population, almost shocked at the thought that anyone might listen to… gulp… Nigel Kennedy!

        I dig and applaud your approach completely!! If that ‘journalist’ want to put bullshit into the public domain, then expect people to let you know what time it is… What a larff!!! Did the writer respond by the way?

      • May 21, 2012

        I’d prefer not to make this personal. Ripping somebody’s published work apart is one thing. Doing it to them is another matter entirely. Whenever we set off down the “if you think this then you’re probably the sort of person who…” route, things get really unproductive, really quickly.

        I haven’t seen a response from the author.

  3. Kirk #
    May 21, 2012

    I’d also call foul on the musician this journalist interviews. He says:

    “Classical music is art,” says Pramsohler, “because of this need to interpret it. This is the definition of art. If it makes you want to interpret it, in the same way you would a picture, or a drawing, if you see something different each time you look at it, then that makes it into something that will last for a long time. And this is true of good classical music.”

    “This is the definition of art?” First I’ve heard…


    “Pop music doesn’t necessarily have this quality,” continues Pramsohler, “although I enjoy it very much I don’t buy any CDs, just downloads. Whereas with classical music I like to have the CD.



    Contemporary classical music is, Pramsohler thinks, a genre in flux. “As with everything at this time it’s in transition right now, there’s all this electronic stuff that people don’t know how to handle yet so they are experimenting a lot.”

    Yea, like since the 60s… Actually, there’s not that much “electronic stuff” in contemporary classical music now, at least far less than the IRCAM subjected us to.

  4. Thornhill #
    May 21, 2012

    By the 1980s wasn’t Karajan earning more money than any pop artist except Michael Jackson because he was collecting royalties from so many recordings? Top soloists and conductors also command huge fees. Isn’t Yo-Yo’s performance fee in the six figures? I’d imagine that’s more than most than most pop-artists (the only way for a pop artist concert to cover that kind of fee in a for profit situations is for the concert to be in an arena, and there are only so many pop artists than can fill an arena).

  5. Ashil Mistry #
    May 21, 2012

    I agree with Careless. It’s kinda comfortable that popular culture has prominence over more ‘classical’ arts.

    • May 21, 2012

      If that was all she’d said, I would have happily ignored it, because it doesn’t really mean anything beyond “popular music is popular”.

      She said things that weren’t true. That’s not a matter of opinion. These are things you can check and, unlike her, I checked.

      It’s true that classical music represents a small proportion of the overall music business, but it has produced its share of superstars and millionaires, supported long and distinguished careers and garnered significant recognition.

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