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We were asked

Dear Mr Mullenger,

I am currently working with a strategic plan for developing a Swedish record label within the field of classical music.
I am interested in knowing about trends from abroad and wonders if you know about any site and/or company that would be intresting to look in to concerning the future of classical music (i.e how will listeners get hold of classical music?

Thank you and thank you for an excellent website!

Annica Sandh


We replied ...

As an avid collector of "real" discs it pains me to say so but surely logically downloading or most probably streaming is going to be the future. With G4 and then G5 being rolled out in years not even a decade and the concept of the internet cloud getting ever nearer (with such high download rates that HD movies let alone FLAC or other lossless formats that will be easily accommodated). That fact that companies like Chandos already offer studio master quality downloads that are superior in hi-fi terms to the best CD can offer is the tip of the iceberg. For many (and I include myself here) nothing quite beats the almost ritualised pleasure of putting on a disc, browsing a well written booklet as well as that slightly shaming thing - POSSESSION! I know from my son's generation that he is the ONLY person who still actually buys hard copies of discs (regardless of content) - that change has occurred in a single generation. A bigger question is whether ensembles and institutions will embrace the idea of pay as you go streaming of live events to people's home 3D-TV's and ultra hi-fi sound set-ups - live concerts from the comfort of your own home. Where we have own-label CD's now perhaps we'll have own-label broadcasting. The "broadcasting" of opera from the Met to cinemas is the beginning of that. Give it 2 generations and collecting of actual discs will be for the tiny minority regardless of genre. I'd bet if I'm wrong it'll be a question of timescale and things will have happened faster and more far-reachingly - not not at all! The technology will be there for sure - perhaps copyright and intellectual property rights will delay rolling this out across all platforms.




As someone who straddles the worlds between technology and music, I think often about how the music industry is evolving and how it can survive. One thing is certain: in 10 years the majority of consumers won't be buying little shiny discs to bring home from the record store. Right now trends in popular music are for artists to self-release music through things like,,, and others where the user may have to pay a set fee or may be allowed to download for whatever they are willing to pay. Additionally many users are accepting a model where they don't own music, but rather "rent" space by putting music in an online, streamable location and playing whatever they want on demand. Additionally for classical music, where the music (if not the recorded performance) exists in the public domain, there are many places where acceptable recordings of commonly performed works by university programs are being given away for free.

In that environment, the businessman must decide how they can add enough value to a listener's experience to make that person want to pay for the recording. I suspect that the model will eventually look something like this:

There will be a large number of free recordings with a short advertisement embedded just before and after the performance to let people know where the recording is from. Something like "This performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony conducted by Arturo Toscanini in 1945 is bought to you by Now sit back and relax and enjoy the show." This hopefully draws people to that website in order to find other recordings when they are looking for lesser recorded works, which can then be sold on a monthly subscription or a per-download model. As bandwidth constraints disappear, I would suspect that most works will eventually allow the listener to either view video of the performance or follow the score as the music is performed if they view something streaming online.

The label itself will likely ally itself with performers able to create recordings of a high quality on their own and become distributors, taking little risk on the music but sharing profit with performers looking for multiple distribution channels. I would suspect that in the world of classical music, there will be less need for a label to pay to record major works.

What I do expect to see, but as yet have not seen, is a trend for labels to sponsor concerts that they record and then allow users who attend that concert identify themselves with some ID off of their ticket stub to download that performance. When they tell friends and colleagues about the magical evening they spent at the symphony, they will then be able to share that music, and their friends will be able to purchase that same recording for themselves. I would expect that the sponsorship would nearly cover all costs for the engineer and the licensing of the recordings so that a relatively full house will approximately cover the costs of the performance and the downloaded music will then be profit for the label and will build buzz for the performing symphony and conductor. This might be difficult to negotiate in the world of established performers doing pop/classical crossover performances, such as Elvis Costello and his symphony tour, but for most orchestras I would think that a second revenue stream from their recordings would be welcome.

So yeah, gaze into my crystal ball and see what lies behind the wall. I expect that the revenue model for classical music, much like other types of music in the future, will revolve around either gaining subscribers who want to listen to a particular recording for a few months and then be done with it or around distributing recordings made in conjunction with many orchestras and chamber groups who are willing to sell recording rights to their performances.


It's 2021 and a new article by the now very elderly Mr Lebrecht is published in The Times proclaiming the death of the classical CD; in this he is of course to all intents and purposes right although some affluent die-hards continue to rejoice in the medium. His earlier articles predicting the death of the strangely irrepressible CD now ring unnervingly dull. In fact the Sony-Philips pioneer format continues to sell well though downloads and Cloud draw-downs are very popular on players built into ear-piercings and controlled through eye-level hologram heads-up displays pioneered by Apple which is now part of the Microsoft empire. Chandos have at this stage been bought out by Naxos. Naxos in addition to selling downloads now offer a miniature 5000Tb hard drive on which the entire Chandos catalogue appears; the last Chandos issue came out in 2019. These small drives plug into the latest mobile communication devices - very convenient but sadly distressingly easy to drop and lose as they are so small though whistle-response technology has been built into the more pricey machines .... well, more dots than machines.

Gramophone (now edited by Jonathan Woolf) and IRR are no longer printed in paper form and can be downloaded from the cloud onto Amazon's latest Kindle machine - The Spark. Only Fanfare continues to print on paper. MusicWeb International - which celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year - thrives and a surge in volunteering by retired baby-boomers now means that the site (still subscription-free) fields some 40 live concert reviews daily and 50 recording reviews every working day. The site has attracted great acclaim through issuing on its own label a series of vividly rendered private concert recordings by Gerard Hoffnung courtesy of the Hoffnung family. Kicking against the current Hoffnung's humour has begun to catch the public imagination again. Dr Len Mullenger OBE (for his services to classical music) has for the last five years been in terrific demand to speak at conferences about the musical arts and volunteering.

Naxos have released all the Havergal Brian symphonies and indeed have re-recorded some of the earlier issues. Their cycle of the 67 Hovhaness symphonies came out in the form of a prestige cabinet set in 2018. Dutton have recorded the complete Arthurian Cycle of operas by Rutland Boughton and have issued it in a 14 CD boxed set. In the face of a continuing thirst for rarities music students are now studying research and appraisal methods for the tracking down of very obscure scores - the envelope continues to be pushed out even further. Never has so much music from every era been available at one time though re-issues have been somewhat decelerated by the extension of commercial copyright protection of recordings up to seventy years old; this took place in 2015 but was preceded by a phenomenal burst of 'last chance saloon' issues designed to beat the new moratorium. Another extraordinary coup in the musical world came in 2015 when following instructions in a secret codicil to his will Sibelius's symphonies 8 and 9, complete in every detail and deeply moving, are released from a Boston bank safe deposit vault. A storm of scholarly infighting about their authenticity ensues. They are promptly recorded by Bis with the Lahti orchestra conducted by Osmo Vanska.

A report in New Scientist this month sets out the groundbreaking work to extract, disentangle, capture and reconstitute acoustic data from the stone and other building materials of old concert halls and churches. The technology seems to be present to capture Mozart's piano concerto premieres and much else - HIP experts are feeling queasy but are ready to claim that the results cannot be a faithful representation. Media companies begin to buy up concert halls in anticipation of being able to exploit the locked up aural history of these venues. This looks likely to overtake the burgeoning industry in software, heavy with interpretative data, that can recreate/synthesise performances by the great conductors at various stages in their lives and at various venues. There is a blistering trade in 'Furtwangler recordings' as recreated in the acoustics of the Kingsway Hall by the Decca team of the early 1970s. The software can be set to produce the performances and sound of the 30 year old Furtwangler and at each stage in his life. Some particularly effete enthusiasts have paid for software add-ons that project by trend extrapolation the style of conductors had they lived 10, 20, 40 years after their actual date of death. Now strangely vapid if very realistic-sounding computer projections of 'new' symphonies by Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven, once very popular in the period 2018-2020 are beginning to lose their Frankenstein-speculative glamour. Fashion begins to turn against melodic music again and a lively interest in the avant-garde works of the 1960s and 1970s bubbles up in academia, broadcasting and the concert hall. Some of the performing materials for works by the likes of Ferneyhough, Bedford (who died in 2011), early Maxwell Davies, Nono, Globokar and late Carter have been lost and graphic scores of that Roundhouse era are proving increasingly difficult to decipher and realise as the generations who played them die away.

Classical music seems as lively as ever though the mores of live concert attendance now mean that people come and go freely at symphony concerts, walk around and chat with friends while the music plays.



Klaus Heyman has read this article. Whilst he found Rob's version entertaining he found the others wide of the mark. Below is a recent interview he gave to NewMusicBox






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