Music economics

Naxos is a classical music company. They bill themselves as the world’s leading classical label. They have a fascinating business model, which is that they find great ensembles, often in eastern Europe, have them record interesting music, and then sell it cheaply.

I’ll often buy 2 or 3 Naxos CDs as experimentation. When they’re 7 bucks a pop, three costs about the same as the new U2 cd. There’s an interesting article about them commissioning new music from a British composer in the New York Times:

What’s really remarkable, however, is the involvement of a record company in commissioning new music. The conventional wisdom at most major labels is that it’s hard enough to sell new music. Going out and helping it come into being is virtually unprecedented.

“Like all recordings of contemporary music,” said Klaus Heymann, Naxos’s founder and chief executive, “this is a not-for-profit project.”

Naxos specializes in bucking conventional wisdom – and is now widely acknowledged as a rare success story in a struggling industry. A budget label – its CD’s retail for about $7 in the United States – it works with a cadre of less-known (but often first-rate) artists like the Maggini Quartet and concentrates on familiar and unusual repertory, with surprising results. A disk of Walter Piston’s violin concertos has sold 12,000 copies in the United States alone, and William Bolcom’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” a three-CD set released in October, made it to the Billboard classical budget chart.