Music: Classical, Now Without the 300-Year Delay
Both orchestras are part of a new initiative by the Universal Music Group built on its Deutsche Grammophon and Decca labels. Christopher Roberts, president for classics and jazz for Universal Music Group International, says that DG Concerts and Decca Concerts will, between them, ultimately service about 10 orchestras in the United States and abroad. Negotiations are under way with orchestras in London, Paris and three German cities. The current intention is for each orchestra to offer, on average, four concerts a season for digital downloading, and one of the four would also be released on CD.
The project reflects a seismic shift in the way music is being discovered, distributed and heard. In 2005, Nielsen SoundScan reports, sales of digital tracks for downloading to computers or portable music players soared to 353 million units in the United States, up 150 percent from 2004. Downloads of digital albums increased 194 percent, to 16 million. Although classical labels arrived late to the party, they, too, are experiencing growth in this area. While sales of classical CD’s in the United States decreased by 15 percent last year, SoundScan reports, digital downloads of classical albums grew by 94 percent. More significant, several labels are finding that the classical share of the download music business is about 7 percent, more than twice the share in physical retail outlets.
For the classical music industry, weary of alarmist talk about the graying of its audience, the demographics are promising.