Editorial for November 2009

Published on November 1, 2009

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Our November drawing/giveaway – for a dozen lucky AUDIOPHILE AUDITION readers – is a set of four hi-res discs from Norway’s 2L label: Seven works by Edvard Grieg, including his Piano Concerto with Percy Grainger as the soloist via a Pianola piano roll with a full symphony orchestra. (At left is pianolist Rex Lawson operating a pianola at a Steinway grand.) Plus a 19-selection 2L compilation, The Nordic Sound, with works by Mozart, Vivaldi, Bartok, Haydn, Britten and Scandanavian composers. Each package contains the same music on both a 192K/24 Pure Audio Blu-ray (using DTS-HD lossless codec), as well as a hybrid SACD – both in thrilling surround sound. See our reviews of both and register on the site this month so that at its end you might be one of the 12 names selected to receive these two hi-res productions. Go Here to Register.

These three lucky readers will be receiving our October drawing/giveaway – the 4-Blu-ray-disc Virtual Haydn set from Naxos. Congrats to all!:  John Desmond – Charlotte, NC; George Lajoie – Manchester, NH; Adrian Tatum – Rolling Hills Estates, CA

Guest Editorial by Patrick P. L. Lam

Death of Classical Music?

In recent years, there had been a flow of articles and publications declaring that classical music and its affiliated recording industry are dead, or on the verge of their doomsday, as technology and the internet ultimately take over by placing risks over the classical recording sales business. In fact, these claims had even persuaded notable personae of the music field, including Norman Lebrecht, to infamously tackle the topic in one of several printed publications. Those who have read these writings, including Lebrecht’s ‘The Life and Death of Classical Music,’ will quickly realize that there are a handful of erroneous reports of facts and misinterpreted data in these writings concerning the health of the classical music industry.

Another strong pessimistic voice on this matter initially came from Greg Sandow, whose
previous claim that ‘classical music is in crisis” had certainly caused some eye-brow- raising that may in part have led him to revisit this matter more recently with a set of writings entitled "Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music.” To some of the distraught readers out there, ill-informed that classical music (and recording sales) will go belly up:  Be relieved! The classical music world and its recording sales are NOT dead, certainly not anytime soon, but merely the hype to a pulped fiction. Both Anne Midgette from The Washington Post and Jens F. Laurson in the WETA Blog have recently provided more optimistic updates on the matter, with evidence to conjure why death is not eminent in the classical music world and sales market, but simply facing a revolution. If their words do not convince you to a stance with optimism, an insider Director of Marketing and International Sales to one of the largest classical labels in Europe (who has requested to remain anonymous) has informed us with statistics that paralleled those reported in 2006, stating that “classical music sales continues to stand strong, making a near annual 20% rise in profits in 2008.”

 Excerpts from Nielsen Music 2006 Year-End Music Industry Report

High School Musical Soundtrack was the top-selling album of year with sales exceeding 3.7 million units. The first Soundtrack to sell more than 3 million units in a year since the 8 Mile Soundtrack in 2002 and the first time since 1998 that a Soundtrack was the best selling album of year (Titanic Soundtrack – 9.3 million).

For the first time, a Digital Song broke the 2 million sales mark in a year: “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter (2,015,000)

22 Digital Songs exceeded the 1 million sales mark for the year compared to only 2 Digital Songs in 2005.

Internet album sales reached a record high of 29 million unit sales; an increase of 19% over 2005 sales total.

41% of all albums purchased were at a Mass Merchant outlet compared to 40% in 2005 and 38% in 2004 (35% in 2003 and 34% in 2002).

Chain music stores accounted for 41% of all album sales, compared to 45% in 2005 and 48% in 2004.

Independent music stores accounted for 6% of all album sales compared to 7% in 2005 and 9% in 2004.

Non-Traditional music outlets accounted for 12% of all album sales, compared to 9% in 2005 and 5% in 2004 (4% in 2003).

Latin music sales exceeded 37 million units, breaking the previous sales peak of 35 million in 2005. Latin album sales grew 5% from 2005.

Both Soundtrack albums and Classical albums gained in sales, up 19% and 23% respectively.

Overall Album sales (including Albums and Track Equivalent Album sales) declined 1.2% compared to 2005.

Total album sales declined 4.9% compared to 2005.

Consistent with the previous two years, 20% of total album sales occurred during the Holiday Season (last 6 weeks of year).

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began in 1985 as a weekly national radio series hosted by John Sunier, which aired for 13 1/2 years on up to 200 public radio and commercial stations coast to coast. In September 1998 its site for programming information was expanded to the present Internet publication.
November 09 is our 129th issue, and features our recently re-designed web site for improved navigation and enhanced appearance. We’re also publishing more and more disc reviews. All of them – often over 120! – are added throughout the month as they are written and received, usually on a daily basis. The most recent reviews appear at the top of each Section Index. The Home Page lists the five latest published reviews, the Section Index lists the past two months of reviews, the Archive goes back to June 1, 2005, and for all reviews by month prior to that you need to click on the Old Archive, which goes back to 2001. The Disc Index lists all past reviews.
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