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The Sound Of Things To Come – MusicTank

The Sound Of Things To Come

29 Aug 2006

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This report seeks to address the impact of digital technology and other new forms of recording on the classical music sector.  In particular,  whether early download sale figures for the classical sector – which indicate that it may constitute a considerably larger portion of the market for digitally delivered music than it has, in recent years, constituted for physical sales – do in fact provide a genuine basis for optimism.

Is this enhanced market share for classical music in the download sphere simply because classical enthusiasts are ‘early adopters’ and likely to be first in to a new market?  Or is it a long-term shift in the music-buying public?  Are there other explanations?    Is it perhaps related to something as fundamental, and technical, as classical music not presenting the same difficulties in clearing publishing rights (because of the high proportion of classical compositions that are in the public domain) that have inhibited the development of the online market for popular music?

And even if classical music does maintain its new-found market share, how significant is it to be selling more in a much diminished music market?  Will download sales ever provide a true replacement for CD sales?  And are the smaller, independent, and newer classical labels positioned to take advantage of these new opportunities?  (It may be relevant here to note the recent travails of the remaining major record labels:  the shuttering in May of Warner Classics, including the removal, effectively, of the entire Telefunken, Erato, and Teldec catalogues to a warehouse in California; and the European Court of Justice’s decision to ‘de-merge’ Sony and BMG).

In addition to traditional record companies, are others likely to become more engaged in recording music, particularly classical, and making it more widely available?  Examples could include the programs already under way for orchestras (e.g. LSO Live) and opera companies (e.g. DVDs from l’Opera Natioanl de Paris; webcasts from the Munich Opera) to market recordings of their own live performances, as well as new initiatives from broadcasters and media companies.  Is the growth in bandwidth capacity worldwide and new interest in audio-visual recording (together with stronger rights and far longer terms of copyright protection) likely to attract further new investment and interest in that sector, such as in producing music DVDs or webcasting live and recorded events?

Darrell Panethiere, Adjunct Professor, Syracuse University-London, College of Visual & Performing Arts.


The Sound Of Things To Come
© Haymarket Publications/The Gramophone,  August 2006. Reproduced by kind permission.