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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for June 4, 2003

Small Classical Labels Fill In for Majors Who Bow Out - In a continuation of last week’s item about the top-flight artists unceremoniously hung out to dry by most of the major record labels, the marketing director of EMI says they can’t make a profit to continue promoting and selling classical titles because classical music is not prevalent in our lives today. Andria Tay observed “a deeper absence of classical music and knowledge in our general society. Old cartoons and certain movies, and a very few commercials are about the only places people are regularly exposed to classical music at all anymore.” She pointed out that classical recordings are kept in separate rooms at shops - even in separate buildings - which doesn’t help matters at all. She says the average person who might want a copy of Beethoven’s Fifth is intimidated when confronted by a shelf with a couple dozen different versions of it. [That’s strange - why aren’t we intimidated when confronted by dozens of different brands of the same thing on the drug store shelf when we want a tube of toothpaste?]

There is some good news here, and it’s coming from the small record labels in the U.S. and Europe, run by creative entrepreneurs who really love what they do and don’t see it just as ‘product’ to push. Some, like Naxos, are thriving and recording things that the major labels wouldn’t even have considered in the past when they were flush - such as the acclaimed American Classics or the upcoming Jewish Music series. When their founder Klaus Heymann was asked if classical music had been killed, he commented, “What has been killed - or rather what committed suicide - were the big-budget, all-star productions which got so expensive they could never recoup their investment.” Bernard Coutaz of Harmonia mundi (who released 60 new recordings last year) said “No one killed classical music...Across 2000 years of history, classical music - like painting and fine cuisine, has not necessarily attracted great crowds...but it has interested people who by luck or taste have learned to love it.” Some of the many other small classical labels which continue serving fine musical cuisine include Hyperion, BIS, Chandos, Telarc, Dorian, Delos, Reference Recordings, Channel Classics, ECM New Series, Opus 111, Supraphon, Hungaraton, Pierre Verany, CBC, and Cedille. Some symphony orchestras such as the London and San Francisco are also doing well producing their own recordings.

Superior AAC Online Audio Offered on AOL - Dolby Labs and America Online have joined to provide an enhanced version of the standard MPEG AAC streaming audio technology called Dolby AAC. It is being offered with new versions of Radio@AOL, using both dialup and broadband connections. The millions of AOL members tuning to the popular online radio services will experience dramatically improved sound along with improved streaming due to the technology requiring lower bit rates (64 kbps for broadband and only 14 for narrowband). The AOL Radio@ Network offers over 175 music, news, entertainment, sports and seasonal stations.

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