This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Xmas Legs Small Present Present
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
GB
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the United Kingdom version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions >  Blog > On the record

On the record
Classical Music

On the record

Posted 05 September 2016   |   1506 views   |   Music   |   Comments (0) Phillip Sommerich assesses some of the changes the record industry has seen since Classical Music first hit the shelves

On Saturday mornings in the 1970s, a ritual took place at my local record store in north-west London that was repeated across the country. As a customer entered, the sales assistant would produce a stack of LPs from under the counter and say: ‘Ah, Mr --------, I have some items to interest you.’

The size and content of the proffered new releases was tailored to the customer’s wallet and tastes.

The nearest equivalent today might be logging on to a streaming service and sampling a playlist. Technology instead of the human touch, globalised marketing instead of local selling, borrowed digital files replacing 12-inch vinyl discs whose cover artwork was as carefully crafted as the audio content – these are the changes in the record industry the consumer has seen over 40 years.

From inside the industry, too, it seems the changes and similarities have been shaped by the digital revolution. The first issue of CM reported on the 21-album launch of RCA’s Gold Seal, with marketing manager Bob Walker boasting: ‘My aim is to make this the most important mid-price series in England.’

Today reincarnated as Robert Matthew-Walker, editor of Musical Opinion, he says: ‘Forty years has meant a considerable change in technology and I’m not entirely convinced that the record industry has adapted well. It has not adapted in terms of marketing, which has taken very much a back seat. Promotion of any type of record or event has to be seen entirely in visual terms. In the 1970s, you did not have to have a video to launch a pop record. Now you cannot launch a single song without an accompanying video, and the costs of making the video far, far outweigh the costs of a making a record. Not all music is visual and it has suffered because of that.’

Alongside that visualisation, a decline in music education and media interest has seen classical music increasingly squeezed into a niche, Matthew-Walker argues.

‘When was the last time you saw a string quartet on British television? The answer is 1994 and that was when Channel 4 – not the BBC – broadcast the entire genre of Schoenberg. That was considered part of Channel 4’s remit then.’

The camera may count now, but it was experience that attracted recording contracts in 1976. Back then, van-loads of recording equipment, a staff producer and sound engineer plus back-up crew were required to make a record. They did not come cheap and the record label was expected to pick up the bill. It is unsurprising, then, that the market was dominated by five majors: Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips (later to be united under the PolyGram umbrella), EMI and RCA, all with thriving pop divisions – a world away from today’s plethora of labels, most of which expect artists to pay to record.

So labels played safe, seeking artists with established followings and good reviews. The ensuing partnerships tended to span decades, often with repeated recordings of a narrow range of core repertoire.

Those partnerships could end suddenly if sales fell. Leonard Bernstein’s 15-year alliance with CBS ended when his exit as music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1973 meant US collectors lost interest. CM in October 1976 reported he had signed with Deutsche Grammophon and a month later noted ‘yet another’ contract, with EMI.

Not all the action was with the majors. In October 1976, CM announced the reappearance in the UK of Westminster Gold, with repertoire including ‘the premiere recording of Handel’s Xerxes’. A week later, the magazine announced that former LSO managing director John Boyden was launching the Enigma label to counter an alleged neglect of British repertoire and artists such as John Lill and John Shirley-Quirk. The label was short-lived as Boyden switched focus to his period-instrument New Queen’s Hall Orchestra

For more great articles like this get the September 2016 issue of Classical Music below or subscribe and save.

Single Issue - December 2018 Replica Edition included
£2.99
Or 299 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only £ 1.50 per issue
SAVE
50%
£17.99
Or 1799 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only £ 1.99 per issue
SAVE
33%
£1.99
Or 199 points

View Issues

About Classical Music

The must-read magazine of the classical music profession, with news, analysis, features and latest jobs. Meet the people who make it happen and get backstage – with Classical Music.

More great content like this...

For more great articles like this subscribe to Classical Music today.

Classical Music
Annual Digital Subscription for £17.99 saving 50%

Most read articles this month


The 5 Best Aviation Magazines

The 5 Best Aviation Magazines

Get ready to take your knowledge of aviation to new heights with our carefully curated list of aviation digital magazines. More...
The 5 Best Fishing Magazines

The 5 Best Fishing Magazines

Avid fisher? Or simply passionate about the pastime? Feed your fishing thrills with our 5 best fishing magazines from Pocketmags and cast your line with confidence today! More...
A Review of Dazed Magazine by Pocketmags

A Review of Dazed Magazine by Pocketmags

It is not about the latest ‘it’ bag or must-have accessory of the season, it is not about which celebrity was the best-dressed at last week’s awards ceremony or who has committed a serious fashion faux-pas. It is fully about redefining the status quo and challenging our conception of beauty - it is the one and the only Dazed magazine. More...
The 5 Best Baking Magazines

The 5 Best Baking Magazines

Passionate baker or dessert lover, here at Pocketmags there’s a digital magazine to make all your sweet dreams come true! More...
The 5 Best Scale Modelling Magazines

The 5 Best Scale Modelling Magazines

Start creating your very own miniature world today with one of our 5 best scale modelling magazines! More...
The 5 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Magazines

The 5 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Magazines

Inspire your meat-free lifestyle with our 5 best vegan and vegetarian digital magazines! More...
SURPRISE MAINLAND PACKAGE

SURPRISE MAINLAND PACKAGE

You don’t have to stay on a Greek island to enjoy Greek diving with all the trimmings, and ‘best-kept secret’ Epidavros offers its own argument for a mainland base. STEVE WEINMAN reports More...
The 5 Best Music Magazines

The 5 Best Music Magazines

Whether you’re an active listener, player or can get up and boogie to your favourite jam, here at Pocketmags, we have the 5 best music magazines to keep the beat alive in you all year round. More...
DIVING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

DIVING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

A manta ray called Mathilde was just one big reason why SIMON MORLEY will never forget his recent trip to Socorro, San Benedicto and Roca Partida – the main Revillagigedo islands More...
The 5 Best Wedding Magazines

The 5 Best Wedding Magazines

Are you dreaming of a white wedding? With luscious flowers, the sweetest melodies and a cake oh, so fluffy? Why not turn that dream into a reality with the most reliable and inspirational sources around? More...
Vouchers Gift Cards A magazine subscription is the perfect gift but you'll need something to show on the big day. View All
Ways to Pay Pocketmags Payment Types
At Pocketmags you get Secure Billing Great Offers HTML Reader Gifting options Loyalty Points