Author Topic: The Classical Chat Thread  (Read 282231 times)

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2200 on: January 22, 2018, 08:01:15 AM »
Charlotte Church, of course...

Lawd, I had succeeded in forgetting about her . . . .
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Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2201 on: January 22, 2018, 10:05:22 AM »
That is one pathetic list. There aren't any whole compositions until Kennedy's Four seasons at #100, then #133 du Pre's Elgar and #176 Summerly's Faure...and Vanessa Mae is still alive  :laugh:

I know. It just makes you cry. Both at what gets defined as "classical" and at just how low proper classical sales are. (Between 250 and 1000 for a good release.)

Baron Scarpia

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2202 on: January 22, 2018, 10:42:40 AM »
I know. It just makes you cry. Both at what gets defined as "classical" and at just how low proper classical sales are. (Between 250 and 1000 for a good release.)

Curious that there are so many classical releases when sales are so low. Seems to imply that profit is not the primary motivation. Perhaps for ensembles and performers classical recordings function as more of a promotional tool than a revenue generator.

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2203 on: January 22, 2018, 11:23:05 AM »
Curious that there are so many classical releases when sales are so low. Seems to imply that profit is not the primary motivation. Perhaps for ensembles and performers, classical recordings function as more of a promotional tool than a revenue generator.

That is precisely it. The idea of making a profit on producing a CD has gone out of the window. Except for a handful of exclusive artists or productions made in conjunction with state radio stations, there's no money to be made from recording. (Naxos, I think, also pays a fee to their artists, but it is small. And no royalties, of course, which is standard now.) Most productions are paid for by the artists or sponsors or a combination thereof; sometimes the label contributes some of the cost. Some labels, like Sony, will do it for free but take a cut of the artist's concert fees for the next year! In any case, monetization works differently now than it used to. The whole business has changed in almost every single aspect (consumer behavior, monetization, production, the medium itself... everything) -- and yet it has thrived at the same time. Amazing, if you think about it. Every other industry would probably have gone belly up.

Offline Pat B

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2204 on: January 22, 2018, 11:40:00 AM »
I remember that hazily. Not a particularly clever or balanced essay, I thought at the time. DG is clearly trying to be both, commercially successful in the old model (which you can't be with total highbrow) and, well, "DG". It's tough.

I re-read it. While certainly not glowing, it did not read like a hit-piece to me. It touted Daniil Trifonov, Cho Seong-Jin, Lisa Batiashvili, and a few other DG artists; it repeatedly acknowledged the increasing difficulty of selling serious classical recordings; and it politely omitted the fact that DG and fellow UMG corporate underling Decca divested their recording facilities long ago.

The elephant in the room is that with production outsourced, and manufacturing and licensing presumably handled by the parent corporation, DG and Decca have become little more than marketing outfits. Obviously UMG wants them each to maximize profits, but surely UMG also wants them to have well-defined, complementary brands. As a consumer right now, I don’t really know what the current forms of DG and Decca (and the half-heartedly resurrected Mercury) are supposed to represent. I also wonder whether the typical crossover customer knows or cares what the Yellow Label traditionally stood for. My expectation is that the next reorg will put one staff in charge of whatever remains of both/all classical labels. In that scenario the DG logo could go on prestige products without carrying the pressure to pay for any dedicated staff.

Oops! Sorry for the digression.

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2205 on: January 22, 2018, 12:22:16 PM »
I re-read it. While certainly not glowing, it did not read like a hit-piece to me. It touted Daniil Trifonov, Cho Seong-Jin, Lisa Batiashvili, and a few other DG artists; it repeatedly acknowledged the increasing difficulty of selling serious classical recordings; and it politely omitted the fact that DG and fellow UMG corporate underling Decca divested their recording facilities long ago.

The elephant in the room is that with production outsourced, and manufacturing and licensing presumably handled by the parent corporation, DG and Decca have become little more than marketing outfits. Obviously UMG wants them each to maximize profits, but surely UMG also wants them to have well-defined, complementary brands. As a consumer right now, I don’t really know what the current forms of DG and Decca (and the half-heartedly resurrected Mercury) are supposed to represent. I also wonder whether the typical crossover customer knows or cares what the Yellow Label traditionally stood for. My expectation is that the next reorg will put one staff in charge of whatever remains of both/all classical labels. In that scenario the DG logo could go on prestige products without carrying the pressure to pay for any dedicated staff.

Oops! Sorry for the digression.

Part of it is technology. Making an good classical recording used to very difficult and expensive. It required extremely expensive hand-made microphones, tape recorders, electronics, cutting lathes, etc. The record labels used to build their own custom amplifiers, mixing consoles, lathe drivers to produce their 'house sound.'  People would become fans of a label because of the house sound. Now you can make, mix, master and distribute a good recording with a laptop and some relatively inexpensive hardware. There is nothing to differentiate the sound from different labels, and the barrier to entering the market is very low.

DG tried to hold it off as long as possible. I remember how they plugged their supposedly advanced "4D" system, which was supposed to differentiate them from other labels. They were trying so hard to sound 'state of the art', but those recording sounded horrible to me.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 12:24:15 PM by Baron Scarpia »

Offline Pat B

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2206 on: January 22, 2018, 03:43:53 PM »
I know. It just makes you cry. Both at what gets defined as "classical" and at just how low proper classical sales are. (Between 250 and 1000 for a good release.)

The makeup of that best-seller list is not really shocking. The market for, say, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is divided among more than a hundred recordings, while everybody wanting the soundtrack from The Phantom Menace all buy the same single product.

I’ve heard those numbers before, not just from you. Where do they come from? And what is your idea of “a good release?”

A couple of years ago Melodiya put out a Richter box, purportedly limited to 1000, with an exorbitant price tag, and it sold out immediately. I’m not claiming that’s a representative release, but the pricing — high enough that I, a moderate Richter fan, did not even consider it — and the speed made me think that maybe 1000 isn’t so difficult to achieve. And I would think that no recording that sold less than 1000 copies would ever get repressed or reissued.

With that said, obviously everything is moving towards streaming. Supposedly Billboard equates 1500 track plays to one album sale. I picked out Amandine Beyer as a current artist who I like but is not backed by the promotional muscle of Sony/UMG/Warner. Several of her recent albums, by my math, add up to 400-900 album sale equivalents from spotify alone, with other streaming platforms and actual CD sales on top of that.

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2207 on: January 23, 2018, 01:33:39 AM »

I’ve heard those numbers before, not just from you. Where do they come from?

For me, at least, it's just what I pick up from talking to artists and labels...

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And what is your idea of “a good release?”

A serious-minded release on a half-way decent, well-distributed label... very exact idea, very difficult to explain it exactly. Something that isn't too obviously a vanity recording. Something with contents of interest. Well performed. Something not too obscure or modern. Something like this or this or this or this.

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A couple of years ago Melodiya put out a Richter box, purportedly limited to 1000, with an exorbitant price tag, and it sold out immediately. I’m not claiming that’s a representative release, but the pricing — high enough that I, a moderate Richter fan, did not even consider it — and the speed made me think that maybe 1000 isn’t so difficult to achieve.


If you can get media interest (such as here) and create a head-turner... you can get sales. But it's not the average, such a box. The high price might even have helped, actually.

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And I would think that no recording that sold less than 1000 copies would ever get repressed or reissued.

Sure they will. If an initial run is, say, 1000 or 800, more will be printed again (maybe 100, 200) if it sold out. Eventually, at least. Depends on the company. Repressing is as cheap as the packaging is, basically. (Which makes re-issuing of the wallet-type boxes less likely, because those are fairly expensive to produce and are really only worth it if your run is >1000.

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With that said, obviously everything is moving towards streaming. Supposedly Billboard equates 1500 track plays to one album sale. I picked out Amandine Beyer as a current artist who I like but is not backed by the promotional muscle of Sony/UMG/Warner. Several of her recent albums, by my math, add up to 400-900 album sale equivalents from spotify alone, with other streaming platforms and actual CD sales on top of that.


Which would be/is very cool. Except that 1500 track-plays don't amount to 1 album sale financially.

Offline Pat B

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2208 on: January 23, 2018, 11:56:34 AM »
A serious-minded release on a half-way decent, well-distributed label... very exact idea, very difficult to explain it exactly. Something that isn't too obviously a vanity recording. Something with contents of interest. Well performed. Something not too obscure or modern. Something like this or this or this or this.

Okay, I can see that.

Quote
Sure they will. If an initial run is, say, 1000 or 800, more will be printed again (maybe 100, 200) if it sold out. Eventually, at least. Depends on the company. Repressing is as cheap as the packaging is, basically. (Which makes re-issuing of the wallet-type boxes less likely, because those are fairly expensive to produce and are really only worth it if your run is >1000.

Okay, that also makes sense, with the “depending on the company” proviso. I knew subsequent runs were relatively cheap but had forgotten they can have such small volumes.

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Which would be/is very cool. Except that 1500 track-plays don't amount to 1 album sale financially.

Well, that depends.

Spotify, from what I have found online, pays between $0.006 and $0.008 per play to the label and artist. 1500 plays works out to about $10.5.

Artists who sell CDs at concerts, or directly online, surpass that on those sales.

Going through retail channels is a different matter. Amazon 3rd-party sellers are selling that Pachelbel album for $13+shipping. Amazon charges a closing fee of $1.8 plus a referral fee of $2.4. Even if the seller’s entire profit comes from the difference between charged and actual shipping, the money is down to $8.8. Subtract $1 for manufacturing and at least $1 for distribution and the label-and-artist share is down to under $7.

It would be more efficient for the manufacturer to be the seller, cutting out another middleman (and shipment). AFAIK only Naxos is doing that — but AFAICT they are not consistently passing any of those savings to either the artist or the customer.


Offline Pat B

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2210 on: January 24, 2018, 12:19:52 PM »
Part of it is technology. Making an good classical recording used to very difficult and expensive. It required extremely expensive hand-made microphones, tape recorders, electronics, cutting lathes, etc. The record labels used to build their own custom amplifiers, mixing consoles, lathe drivers to produce their 'house sound.'  People would become fans of a label because of the house sound. Now you can make, mix, master and distribute a good recording with a laptop and some relatively inexpensive hardware. There is nothing to differentiate the sound from different labels, and the barrier to entering the market is very low.

DG tried to hold it off as long as possible. I remember how they plugged their supposedly advanced "4D" system, which was supposed to differentiate them from other labels. They were trying so hard to sound 'state of the art', but those recording sounded horrible to me.

Interesting point. How much of “house sound” was that now-obsolete custom gear, and how much was mic selection/placement, studio acoustics, and various EQ/reverb/dynamic tricks (or lack thereof)? A lot of decisions still have to be made even if everybody is feeding the signal through off-the-shelf DACs into ProTools. But now those decisions have been outsourced, detached from the branding — and many of the physical facilities have been repurposed or demolished.

The waters are getting muddy even with old recordings, with Philips recordings now branded as Decca, EMI as Warner, Virgin as Erato, and both Columbia and RCA as Sony.

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2211 on: January 25, 2018, 09:13:48 AM »
Interesting point. How much of “house sound” was that now-obsolete custom gear, and how much was mic selection/placement, studio acoustics, and various EQ/reverb/dynamic tricks (or lack thereof)? A lot of decisions still have to be made even if everybody is feeding the signal through off-the-shelf DACs into ProTools. But now those decisions have been outsourced, detached from the branding — and many of the physical facilities have been repurposed or demolished.


I wish I could find it, but I read an article by one of the children of the Mercury team describing some of the behind the scenes stuff, like the difficulty of getting the M201 microphone that they preferred for making orchestral recordings (supposedly only 36 had ever been made and they needed six--3 + 3 spares for a job). Basically those microphones were very sensitive with low distortion, but also had a frequency response which was far from flat, with a peak in the upper middle range. The "sound" had to do with getting the distance right so that the microphone response curve complemented the tendency of high frequencies to decay faster with distance than low frequencies to produce a sound which was 'just right.' At that time what they could do to process the signal was limited and editing was done with a razor blade.

Also, I recall that some of the old Decca releases had information about the recording equipment ("Decca Legends" or "The Classic Sound") which listed customers built mixing consoles which they used for the "Decca Tree" plus "Outriggers" configuration.

Now, I was at a concert of the San Francisco Symphony which was being recorded for a release on SACD. Looked like there were at least 100 microphones suspended above the orchestra by wires. They were no doubt recorded on individual tracks, with the ability to individually adjust the gain and equalization of each microphone and and substitute tracks from other takes (the program was repeated at 3 concerts) to fix any problems. The ability to manipulate is almost infinite. It is primarily a cost thing, because you don't have to sit there with the orchestra getting the microphone placement just right. Everything is fixed in the digital manipulation of the recording post-production.

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The waters are getting muddy even with old recordings, with Philips recordings now branded as Decca, EMI as Warner, Virgin as Erato, and both Columbia and RCA as Sony.

Yes, that drives me crazy. The disappearance of Erato was a great loss, and to see Virgin recordings branded as Erato (with a red logo instead of green) adds insult to injury.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 10:59:26 AM by Baron Scarpia »

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2212 on: February 08, 2018, 04:58:36 PM »
Yes, that drives me crazy. The disappearance of Erato was a great loss, and to see Virgin recordings branded as Erato (with a red logo instead of green) adds insult to injury.

How so? Erato was dead in the water after Warner stopped meaningfully producing new classical recordings somewhere around 2002. Or they stopped in 04/05 but closed down Erato as early as 2002, using the label only for a few re-issues. Its goal was to produce French classical music, with an emphasis -- though only a slight one -- on early music.

Virgin, meanwhile, was alive and well -- quite independent under EMI Classics... also French-run (Erato's founder and Virgin's head know each other well) and had set out to do exactly the same thing.

Makes total sense that post-Parlophone sale, Virgin was folded into Erato, while the whole company (Warner) is revitalized and run by the former head of Virgin.

Meanwhile CLICK-BAIT alarm:


Classical CD Of The Week: A Starry-Fantastical Contemporary American Piano Concerto


https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenslaurson/2018/02/07/classical-cd-of-the-week-a-starry-fantastical-contemporary-american-piano-concerto/#9f6d7a0392a4


...In recommending Claude Baker’s From Noon to Starry Night as well as Aus Schwanengesang, I’d like to say that the music stands on its own; that it can be judged on its own, intrinsically individual merits… But perhaps that is not quite true: the quotation-aspect is too strong as to be able to ignore it. Which is strange, in a way: In the visual arts we judge a collage very easily on its own merits. That’s probably because we are not familiar with the parts that make up the whole; the ingredients are often anonymous or at best symbolic and not the smile of the Mona Lisa pasted onto the face of Quentin de La Tour’s Louis XV of France set in Henri Rousseau’s Exotic Landscape. In music meanwhile, the famous quotes – even the faint ones that appear and disappear on the horizon – stick out and determine our perception more definitely. The way we appreciate Kurt Schwitters is not analogue to the way we appreciate Hans Zender...

Baron Scarpia

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2213 on: February 08, 2018, 05:09:15 PM »
How so? Erato was dead in the water after Warner stopped meaningfully producing new classical recordings somewhere around 2002. Or they stopped in 04/05 but closed down Erato as early as 2002, using the label only for a few re-issues. Its goal was to produce French classical music, with an emphasis -- though only a slight one -- on early music.

Virgin, meanwhile, was alive and well -- quite independent under EMI Classics... also French-run (Erato's founder and Virgin's head know each other well) and had set out to do exactly the same thing.

Makes total sense that post-Parlophone sale, Virgin was folded into Erato, while the whole company (Warner) is revitalized and run by the former head of Virgin.

Makes about as much sense to me as it would if Warner Brothers bought the 20th Century Fox catalog and rebranded Marilyn Monroe films as Lana Turner to reinforce their "blond bombshell" brand.

The labels had their own identities. An Erato recording does not sound like a Virgin recording. To have look at a release and have to ask myself, is that Erato Erato, or is that Erato really Virgin, is that Warner Teldec, or is that Warner EMI? I find it vaguely alienating.

« Last Edit: February 08, 2018, 05:16:27 PM by Baron Scarpia »

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2214 on: February 09, 2018, 01:56:06 AM »
Makes about as much sense to me as it would if Warner Brothers bought the 20th Century Fox catalog and rebranded Marilyn Monroe films as Lana Turner to reinforce their "blond bombshell" brand.

The labels had their own identities. An Erato recording does not sound like a Virgin recording. To have look at a release and have to ask myself, is that Erato Erato, or is that Erato really Virgin, is that Warner Teldec, or is that Warner EMI? I find it vaguely alienating.

I suppose that makes it difficult to navigate for releases between 1992 and 2002, during which both labels were making recordings. But I don't really hear the "label" thumbprint as you apparently do.
In any case, they didn't have much choice, since as part of the deal they were not allowed to continue use any part of the Virgin or EMI brands.

Same as Universal -- whose right to use the "Philips" name had run out... so folding it into Decca seemed a logical-enough choice. But those recordings are not hard to pick out, I find.

Baron Scarpia

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2215 on: February 10, 2018, 01:36:03 PM »
This is a surprise, Andre Rieu, conducting Telemann with Gustav Leonhardt, recorded in the 60's. Before he turned to the dark side, I suppose.  ???



Offline North Star

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2216 on: February 10, 2018, 01:43:10 PM »
This is a surprise, Andre Rieu, conducting Telemann with Gustav Leonhardt, recorded in the 60's. Before he turned to the dark side, I suppose.  ???
Maybe it's Andre Rieu senior, the father of that infamous one?
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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2217 on: February 10, 2018, 08:59:45 PM »
Maybe it's Andre Rieu senior, the father of that infamous one?

Indeed. Andre Sr also shows up among the performers in the Teldec Bach box. (I am not in the mood to look to see what exactly he did there.)

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2218 on: February 11, 2018, 01:37:42 AM »
Indeed. Andre Sr also shows up among the performers in the Teldec Bach box. (I am not in the mood to look to see what exactly he did there.)

And isn't there a Sony Haydn Trumpet concerto recording on which that chap conducted?

Ah, ORGAN concertos it was.

I know how I blanched when I first realized (or thought I had realized) that I had an Andre Rieu CD among my posessions.  ;D


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Baron Scarpia

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2219 on: February 12, 2018, 04:13:23 PM »
Must be the father (who was a conductor according to wikipedia). Seems unlikely that a guy born in 1949 would be recording Bach and Telemann for Telefunken in the 1960's.