Alarming dip

My last item, about classical music on TV, has prompted some disagreement, which I’ll soon reflect here.

Meanwhile there’s an alarming piece in The Independent about a dip in British classical CD sales. It wasn’t just that fewer people bought classical CDs — classical sales fell dramatically as a percentage of all CDs sold, from 10% in 1990 to 5% now. I’d love to know if the decline was steady, or just spiked recently, which might (thin ray of hope) mean only that the current crop of classical releases isn’t very gripping. I’d also like to know if percentage sales of each musical genre normally stay about the same, or routinely churn.

But this can’t be good news. I also notice, in the story, another example of an escalation I’ve noticed this year in scary rhetoric. “Welcome to the death of music, or that genre of it we define as classical,” said an opinion piece in The Scotsman, back in May. (Are things worse in Britain?) And in the Independent piece, we have an artists’ manager asking whether classical music “has reached its sell-by date.” Granted, he manages the shabby crossover string quartet Bond, but still it’s new — and bracing — to see statements like that in print.

A contrarian would be hopeful — the rise in pessimism, he or she would say, is a sure sign things are going to turn around. At least the classical music world might take it as a wakeup call.

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