Most Persuasive Non-Death Certificate Yet

Here’s Alex Ross today, though you might as well go read the whole thing:

But the whole point is that there are no hits in classical music. It’s a niche market that is itself a vast conglomeration of sub-niches, from early music to the avant-garde, from Furtwängler fanciers to Toscanini types, none of whom ever agree. Collectively, however, they purchase many millions of records a year, and the Internet has made it far easier for them to find what they want….

Out in the media mainstream, any information that suggests health or lack of death in the classical area will appear counterintuitive, and will be questioned or ignored. The lack of hits guarantees a lack of coverage, because media outlets want to be able to tell their audience about the four or five big things that matter in any field — the Arcade Fire, Heroes, Spider Man 3, etc. — and this galaxy of subcultures won’t oblige. It’s so much easier to disregard the entire thing. The neverending “death of classical music” talk is the wishful thinking of the culture industry. But the fact that orchestra subscriptions, opera ticket sales, and, possibly, record sales have gone up in the last year or two suggests that music from Hildegard to Anna Clyne can still find its audiences without help from TV, magazines, and commercial radio.

Not that I give a damn, I’m in postclassical.


  1. says

    i thought you were jazz.
    KG replies: Having mastered classical, postclassical, and jazz, I’m now on to ambient. I realize it must be difficult to keep up. :^D

  2. Paul H. Muller says

    Interesting stuff. Classical listeners are supposed to be, ahem, of a certain age so maybe they are more inclined to actually buy a CD than download a ripped MP3. I’m an old guy so I have all my classical CDs neatly arranged chronologically from Schutz to Reich; there is something comforting about having it all on a shelf rather than somewhere in an IPod. Maybe CD sales figures are becoming skewed by demographics. Now it was just here that I was going to go into a rant about PostClassical CD availability. I once went to Barnes & Noble to buy “Concerto for Piano & Wind Ensemble” by Kevin Volans. They didn’t have it, and could not order it. I tried on-line, but nothing seemed to work. So just now, to make a point, I looked again on Amazon. They had 4 copies in stock… so I bought one. The Long Tail lives.
    KG replies: I’ve learned, when I can’t find something interesting, to go to Amazon’s foreign sites, like (listed at the bottom of the Amazon page).

  3. says

    Paul, on the contemporary repertoire file-sharing community I spend a lot of time in, there are about 40 people active at any given moment, and we’ll almost all under the age of 30.
    I should mention that t the the effect of young-person file-sharing on sales is less than one would assume when you consider that a good portion of these people live in Eastern Europe or Central America, where there are no stores selling a decent stock of traditional stuff, let alone kooky avant-garde stylings.

  4. Eric Lin says

    Well Chris,
    It’s gotten more difficult here in the US as well. Smaller stores sometimes have gems but it’s usually still a limited collection. After Tower closed, it’s really hard to find stuff in general. Fortunately, Amazon seems to have discovered the right business model…everything one click away!
    Cheers…umm…for capitalism?