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The most powerful man in the record biz advises orchestras to chill out

Max Hole, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music which produces one in three of all recordings sold today, is sharing his thoughts on classical music this afternoon with the annual gathering of the Association of British Orchestras. Here, exclusive to Slipped Disc, are some of the highlights of his speech.

Max Hole began: ‘I am someone who in certain respects represents a large swathe of the public who first and foremost  love music, and who like the bits of classical music that they’ve been exposed to, mostly by chance, but who feel that it’s a world that they could never comfortably inhabit or be part of.

Max Hole with a recovering tenor

= Let’s not kid ourselves that the CD will be around for ever, it won’t.

= Manufacturers no longer fit CD players into cars as standard.  The CD is rapidly disappearing from retail shelves in the high street and last week we heard the sad news about HMV going into administration, the last music chain that still carries classical music.  The record industry is working hard with the administrators to see if there could be a future for this great British retail institution, as we want to do all we can to sustain the physical business as long as possible.

= On a more positive note, the digital world is a massive opportunity for us. The explosion of Smartphones, tablets and portable devices mean that we can reach literally millions of consumers in all parts of the world. In Christmas week it is estimated that globally 50 million new smart phones and tablets were activated.

=  At Universal we’re working closely with iTunes to get the sound quality improved as we recognise that this is a concern of many classical music consumers and an obstacle in a greater take up of downloading. We pushed for the formation of a download only classical singles chart to stimulate all companies to produce more of their catalogues digitally and to generate sales.

= At Universal, we have also launched Sinfini.  Sinfini is a website that represents all artists, not just those on our books, and our editorial is independent. It’s a straight-talking, fully Spotify, iTunes, Amazon-integrated website that aims to take the jargon out of the genre and present it in a clear and immediately accessible way. The format allows users to share their discoveries and engage directly with what they read, see or hear. It is part magazine, part shop, part streaming service.

= Moving on to the live experience, I am worried that the very traditions and institutions that seek to celebrate, promote and preserve classical music are in danger of causing the genre great harm and hindering its growth.  I think it was Alex Ross who said “the problem with classical music is the word classical”.  Exclusion from classical music is not just about social and monetary boundaries: it is equally about the physical and the architectural. The very buildings in which you play are often seen as forbidding and not places many people think they’d be comfortable entering.

There is nothing like the live experience.  But, the communal shared emotional experience that can be had from great live music making isn’t being enjoyed by enough people because of the perceived elitism that’s perpetuated by unwritten etiquette that many find perplexing and intimidating. I was lucky enough to see Daniel Barenboim and the West Eastern Divan Orchestra perform Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Proms last year.  For me, the 2nd movement is as an uplifting piece of music as The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” or Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”.  I wanted to jump on my feet and shout and yell, but even at the Proms, the most wonderful and friendly festival of classical music, there is silence.  But actually, not even silence, there is a loud chorus of coughing and spluttering. I know I’m not the first to say this but there are too many “clap here, not there” protocols to abide by, for people to feel at ease.  I’m not even sure classical music was ever intended to be listened to in this way.

=  Much of the joy in modern music, whether it be rock ‘n’ roll or trance, comes in crowd interaction and shared experiences. Musicians interact with their audience, and the audience are able to interact with each other – they feel like a meaningful part of the event. But not often at a classical concert.  I praise and encourage the good work that is going on in moving into the modern world, for example, orchestras are using their relationships with sponsors to get out of the concert hall and go direct to where people are who wouldn’t normally go to the concert hall. The partnership of BMW and the LSO last summer to provide a free open-air concert in Trafalgar Square serves as a brilliant example of how such partnerships can work.

Dare I say however, that orchestras could do more in the way they connect with audiences.  Musicians need to think about the way they dress, and need to appear more excited and engaged with the audience.  There’s more to it than just taking a couple of bows at the end of the concert.

For so long now, we have clung to tradition. While tradition is important and is to be respected, if we are to survive, we must also be comfort.


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  1. Nicholas Riddle says:

    There is a considerable amount of sense here! I hope people were listening. There is no reason why the “classical music” area should not grow substantially in the UK, and while there will doubtless be things here that some people find more or less to their personal taste, this is a really helpful set of comments that are well worth considering seriously – maybe even implementing!

    • I don’t think there’s any sense here at all– you could put classical music in a Denny’s and people still wouldn’t come. At least most people. What’s so imposing about a building with 4 walls and a roof?

      Hooting and hollering is fine– most classical fans like to do it for certain music– but not all sounds take to it. The solution to the classical music ‘dilemma’ is a better educational system– and destroying the current hatred towards gentility.

      This guy sounds like kind of moron. Next he’ll complain that the music’s too slow. Or that big books don’t have enough pictures.

      Look, CS was extraordinarily big during the hifi era. That was unusual for it during its long history. It’s not so big any more. So too bad. It will be someday– when we get around to having adults again.

  2. something missing at the end?

  3. I’m afraid the guy is right, and we’re far beyond of the “claps and more interaction” as the mainly problem. The problem starts before. Some of the very buildings in which the named classical music plays still not demanding but pressuring for things such “Jacket and tie”. For example Alla Scala, I’ve been there 3 weeks ago, but when I’ve received the tickets in my place I could not believe that on the verse the sentence both English/Italian “Jacket and tie is requested”. I went with my regular all black, but Shirt, Pants and shoes (not formal at all), however even been an experienced concert goer, I was a little afraid that they could take the statement for granted, like in the past. They didn’t. Nevertheless, what do you think someone not used with this outdated world will think after read such thing? Probably they will laugh, especially if they are under 30 and they will also say that the place is not for then, even before they really go.

    However I do not agree concerning the idea of interaction like rock or pop music. These kinds are amplifier up to higher decibels. You can shout a lot and the person aside won’t be so disturbed. Actually during a concert you can barely listen clearly to the ones aside you, but the band/artist. Does someone shout inside a movie theater? But people still go. Classical is acoustic. If someone just cough in the back of the hall, everyone will clearly listen to it. Let’s say that 20 or 25 start to talk at the same time exchanging impressions during a pianissimo. It will turn the others experience to listen to the music a little disturbed. I think we can take examples of success from other music stiles, but it must consider the intrinsic characteristics of the genre.

    • What’s wrong with a jacket and a tie? This same desired audience will get dressed up to go out to eat.

      Or go to work.

      The music IS elitist. But so are many people. They have no problem being snobs about, say, food or real estate. The fact that classical music isn’t on their last is because they did not grow up with it.

      Blame the media, blame the rotten schools. But don’t change the music!! Interests ebb and flow– it’ll come back.

  4. Marko Velikonja says:

    He makes some good points, but I’m so tired of this whole “classical music is forbidding” meme. ANY place or event where you don’t know the ritual will strike the newcomer as forbidding. Walk into a bar for the first time – how do you order, how much do you tip the bartender? What did a newcomer to a Grateful Dead concerto do, surrounded by people with 100 of their concerts under their belt? What do you do the first time you go to a snooty restaurant? With symphony concerts, one easy bit of advice: watch what the others are doing, and follow suit. In any setting, try not to attract attention.

    That said, I’d certainly like to see orchestras perform novel programs in unusual venues, or simply pursue formats beyond the staid overture-concerto-intermission-symphony two-hour program.

    • Bravo Marko – That’s a good example. Let’s improve it a little. It is really regular that newcomer thinks that the audience with 100 grateful dead concert as “Bad guys” with all that leather and pins. Why that tattoos and Skull?. Similar to the “snobs of classical music” veterans. The difference is that probably is more easy to do not attract attention in a Greatfull concert than at the ROH. Does Greatful trying to change the veterans? No, but the newcomers are highly appreciated. Metallica (Other rock band) often ask who in the audience is at one of the band concert for the first time. Everyone stands and are saluted by the band. After that they ask who is the veteran with a lot of concerts of the band. The band just say: “Show the new ones what to do guys”. Both bands are sold out gig, with old and new supportes.

    • Nicholas Riddle says:

      It seems to be disturbing (but accurate) to compare a classical music concert to a snooty restaurant – that is exactly the problem and exactly why people feel to intimidated to go. If one were to a go to a Grateful Dead concert for the first time, you wouldn’t have any fear of putting a foot wrong, being looked down on for wearing the wrong clothes, or obliged to enage in some ritual behaviour that had nothing to do with music itself but was just a social convention expected of you. Everybody knows that rock and pop concerts are entirely relaxed and you can just do what you want. Moreover, you don’t have to sit still, be quiet and demur while they are going on either. Most people don’t know what is expected of them at a classical concert, but from what they have seen on television, they tend to believe that there is such a thing as correct dress and correct behaviour and a host of ways they could show themselves up in front of other people – completely different from Grateful Dead.

      • Chevalier Diddley says:

        Did you ever stop to think that the reason people feel that classical music is so strange and other is the coordinated cultural attacks on Western civilization?

        Just stop an average 20-30 something on the street in the USA and ask if they associate classical music with the ‘establishment’ or better yet, Wall Street, the 1%, Republicans, Mitt Romney and (OMG!) Christians (this will get Norman’s readership up in arms) and what’s going to be the response….an overwhelming YES! So there you have it.

        It’s all quite simple; as long as society walks down the path of nihilism and pisses on our very own cultural heritage, serious music will suffer.

        Lady GooGoo GaaGaa anyone?

        • Robert Pherigo says:

          Mr. Diddley – I think your representation of how people in the USA view classical music is suspect. Do you have any research to back this claim up? I myself would put Wall Street, the 1%, Republicans, Mitt Romney and Conservative Christians (let’s not paint too broad a brush) squarely in the Country & bad Pop music category. I find most classical musicians to be Liberal, Democrat, Obama supporters and if they are Christians then they are of the Christian Left and non-dogmatic.

          What needs to be taught is how to listen. Not what to listen for but just how to listen without distracting one’s self.

          • You have hit on it. And that is part of the problem. Those who have the highest concentrated wealth are primarily those who despise the music they see as elitist. For that matter, they despise philanthropy. This will not be advantageous in a few years when art institutions must find new donors.

          • I agree– CM is more of a ‘liberal’, college-y thing.

            Most people don’t like CM– but they don’t like to read books, either.

            Blame the corrupting media. And leave the music alone. BTW, this same disappearing audience problem can be found in revival theaters. Young people tell me that whenever they go to see classic films the audience is always 30 years older than they are.

            Is the solution to only program current TV shows? Of course not.

      • I think the comparison with snooty restaurants is a great one, because it underscores how snootiness is NOT the problem! Last I checked, there is no crisis in the fine-dining world equal to the crisis in the rapidly-vanishing classical music realm.

        Snootiness, off-putting concert protocol, blah blah blah…. The same tired excuses are peddled again and again with as little effect now as ever. Does anyone honestly think that if you could clap whenever you wanted, orchestras would immediately be standing-room-only?

        Are people curious about classical music? Increasingly, no. Who’s to blame? I have my theories, but I don’t blame the music itself, “imposing” buildings, or uppity ushers.

  5. I’m sorry to say this, but the thing that is worrying here is what this supposed “most powerful man in the record biz” has to say. It is all the usual stereo type comments on classical music, that we heard twenty five years ago as well, without any real understanding of neither the music itself, nor how the real hardcore buyers of classical music want to obtain and consume their music. This Mr. Hole may, as he says, “like the bits of classical music that he has been exposed to, mostly by chance, but who feel that it’s a world that they could never comfortably inhabit or be part of.” His hackneyed and totally unoriginal comments that by transforming the classical experience into something more like a pop concert, where people can get up and shout their enthusiasm, clap when they want and only have to listen to the bits that are deemed popular and digestible by others like Mr. Hole will spell the doom of the entire genre. Yes, there are indeed more people like Mr. Hole, unversed in classics and liking the bits they heard, but not the rest, but that group will never sustain the classical business. I’m sure that Mr. Hole, being an overpaid Universal executive eats in good restaurants throughout the world and I’m sure that when he is eating in a five star restaurant he doesn’t behave like he is in a pub in London before closing. I’m sure he drinks and expects fine wines and wouldn’t ever order coca cola with his meal. I’m sure that he eats a starter, a main course and a dessert, NOT just the “bits” that he likes, and in the order that he likes them. There are certainly more people eating in McDonalds than in five star restaurants, yet Mr. Hole would never, eat, dress and behave in a five star restaurant as he would eat, dress and behave in McDonalds. Well, experiencing classical music is no different. It has its own environment, it has a CULTURE that is as much a part of the musical experience, as is the music itself. Sure, its audience is smaller, but so is the customer base for five star restaurants. I’m tired of these corporate nitwits believing that you can reduce everything to the lowest common denominator without affecting the perception of the music and its core audience. Mr. Hole is not original in his remarks and with an approach like his and reading that he is in the driver’s seat for classics at Universal, I think that they too will go the way of past labels whose corporate suits drove classics into the ground with their populist dumbing down approach.

    Mr. Hole should rather find ways to connect and invigorate the existing public for classics, via technology, via recordings with interpretation as the first criteria, not on pretty looking female 20 something year old pianists and hot young guys playing violin or other instruments. This guy has cheapened the whole realm and alienated so many young and old true passionate lovers of classical music. I am totally into classics and also like rock and jazz, but understand that each realm has its own world and its own customs and I like keeping them unique. Cheap populism is not the answer. It has been tried before and failed. Mr. Hole, in his simplistic approach, wants us to eat Chinese food with a knife and fork, when it tastes better with chopsticks.

    • Bravo, needed to be said

    • Robert Pherigo says:

      Bravo! Great comment!

    • Couldn’t have said it better.

    • Ubiratã Rodrigues says:

      Bravo!! Thanks for the comment.

    • itrinkkeinwein says:

      Well put, Jason. The compliment he pays to Beethoven’s 9th is a gem, isn’t it, coming from someone in his position.

    • Timon Wapenaar says:


    • Absolutely agree. Well said.

    • excellent points– the food analogies are great. Food snobs would be appalled to have the BBQ boys telling them how to eat. And that’s OK– but classical music fans are destructively “elitist”?

      Look, most people now don’t like CM. But they don’t like books, either. Or B/W movies. So what.

      The only solution is to improve our schools. Teach kids how to sit still for more than a minute. And pay attention to the things around them.

      No one– and I mean NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE — is going to choose Haydn over Beyonce. So we need to teach people how to enjoy both.

    • Thanks, Jason! Couldn’t agree more.

      • Many terrific posts on here – this is up there with the best of them. Thanks Jason.

        It really will not do for this fellow Hole to come along, spout this recycled rubbish and be taken seriously by virtue of his status as top fat cat at a money-making machine. Unfortunately, he will be, but not by people with their hearts in serious music.

  6. I totally agree with the comment above. Classical music is a niche market. It always has been and always will be. By trying to popularise and democratise it, Mr. Hole and the other corporate creatures like him will simply throw the baby out with the bath water. The classical music business really has no place within a giant corporate money machine like Universal Music. Let’s be clear here, Mr. Hole doesn’t give a damn about classical music, its artists or its niche of loyal, core consumers. As a corporate man, he only cares about the numbers and the money that it brings to the group’s bottom line. The more he sells, the more they earn and the bigger bonus he receives. Never mind that classical music is a different animal. What’s good for Justin Bieber is good for Beethoven, that’s how these corporate music executives think. These sorts of people only have a one size fits all mentality. I agree that people like Mr. Hole will ultimately destroy recorded classical music in its pure form and chase away the hard core buyers in the process. It’s only a matter of time. I’m sure that he only flies first class when he travels and would never accept the popularisation of the aircraft cabin, a one style tourist cabin for all. Yet this poor guy can’t understand, nor even respect, the different musical environments. The sooner classical music gets out of the hands of these sorts of people, the better.

    • This industry needs leaders who have a notion of classical music, who can assess artistic quality and have a feeling for charisma, musicianship and stage presence of artists. Marketing experts without musical knowledge and training do not have the expertise to build and enhance upon the success of the impressive back-catalogues of the big labels form the 50s to 80s. As a consequence of this, the artistic quality standard of recordings has evidently dropped. The wonderful analog recordings of the 60s stereo-age onwards prove to us that this is not a technology question. ADD is not worse than DDD, on the contrary. 5.1 is not necessarily better than stereo. Many DVDs with a 5.1 soundtrack were produced in stereo, released with a “processed” 5.1 track, which often is terrible.

      We have wonderful younger instrumental musicians and singers, they need to be nurtured and given time to gain experience, instead of creating sexist campaigns to launch a “new star”. The really great musicians in the past had time to mature and were not exploited by a “PR campaign”.

      Classical music requires attention and concentration, this more so for contemporary music. Some venues have experimented with musicians interacting with the audience before the concert and in the pause, or conductors communicating with the audience explaining the music etc. The suit and tie really are no problem for the reception of music, in most concert halls there is no dress code, which is fine.

      Classical music requires a different marketing strategy, for ex. an opera lover does not want to buy individual MP3 files via Amazon, they want a libretto, information on the artists, and detailed product information provded by the online retailer. The title alone is not enough to sell the product, additional information needs to be provided.

      • Small labels. Small labels.

        As always, ‘small is beautiful.’

        • Except small labels have no real means of promoting their wares, of promoting new music, new artists… beyond a small and tiny circle of the hard-core fans who aren’t enough to finance recordings anyway. Pointless, in terms of getting classical music to a wider audience. Indeed, counterproductive, since the proliferation of small labels has led to a proliferation of mediocre recordings which flood the market, making it even more confusing for a first-timer.

  7. Surely one of the main issues here is the general and increasing decline in music education.

  8. Quite right ! Hole is not an ambassador for classical music. He is there to sell whatever he can sell, however he can sell it for a profit. Would a Max Hole ever have taken the risk to record Solti’s Ring for Decca ? I doubt it. It seems clear that attempts to ‘popularize’ classical music with favorite excerpts, cute performers etc has not expanded the audience. Understanding and appreciating classical music requires some input or homework on the part of the listener. In my view we go to concerts dressed appropriately to respect the music and artists.
    Did the 3Tenors concerts and recordings bring in any new audience for classical music ? I don’t have a quantifiable answer but I doubt it !

  9. PLEASE LOOK CAREFULLY AT THE PICTURE AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. It shows Rolando Villazon together with Max Hole, the so-called “brains” behind classics at Universal Music. Notice anything a bit strange and contradictory here? Rolando Villazon is dressed totally cool and casual, with his shirt open and no tie. Then have a look at Mr. Max Hole. Dressed up in the quintessential conservative English pin stripped suit and tie. Here is the man who proclaims that classical music, its orchestras and its audiences are uptight, intimidating and stuffy, looking like your private banker at Coutts, as stuffy, pompous and totally uncool as one could imagine. If classical music is, according to him, suffering from this “attitude”, why then is he looking like that and yet the artist next to him, an exponent of classical music, looking like he could have been coming from a rock or jazz club? [redacted]

  10. Dobbs Franks says:

    Great to read such wisdom. We really have to get rid of the walls which have been erected between and among various forms of music making. We are all here to make music and share it with everyone we can reach. Keeping up with technology has always been a challenge, but not an impossible one.
    Let’s get out there and make music with love and affection and not worry about labels and ‘lofty ideals’. Let’s just enjoy communicating in our own special way.

  11. NotAJournalist says:

    The CD is dying? Wow had no idea, been hiding under a rock since 2000. That final tradition comment? One of those things that sounds wise until you realize there is no substance there.

  12. Although I agree with much of what people are saying about Mr. Hole’s true interests and off perception of classical music, I think he has a somewhat valid point: “Much of the joy in modern music, whether it be rock ‘n’ roll or trance, comes in crowd interaction and shared experiences. Musicians interact with their audience, and the audience are able to interact with each other – they feel like a meaningful part of the event.” Perhaps this was not true for “classical music” concerts 200 years ago, but how about now? The world is far more social, and furthermore, the classical music audiences of today (or at least in the coming decades) have experienced concerts of Bach and Debussy as well as Lady Gaga and Grateful Dead. They have iPads and Twitter and Facebook and whatever else you can think of. The audience – sorry, but the future of classical music – is changing. And so “classical music” must change. Before you yell at me, hear me out.
    As many have been saying, perhaps it’s not the building or the music or the “stuffiness” that discourages new audiences. But to go further: maybe it’s the lack of interaction. And by interaction, I don’t mean encouraging people to shout and dance during a performance or give standing ovations between movements. But there should be more opportunities for audiences to engage with each other and the musicians. Otherwise, some might see it as pointless – if you go to a concert to listen to music and not interact with anyone, couldn’t you do the same at home (there are various arguments one could make against this, but still)?
    So what do we do, as the sole upholders of the grand tradition of classical music (this sentence means exactly what it sounds like)?
    A new concert format? Maybe. Just an example I know of: Seattle Symphony recently started the series called “[untitled]” – a short concert sans intermission, then mingling of audience, musicians, some administration (!) and the music director himself, followed by an intimate concert in the lobby (starting at 10pm) during which audience members can have drinks, quietly walk around, or sit on carpet squares on the floor right next to the musicians (Boulez rug concerts, anyone?). Maybe not THE answer, but AN answer, and an interesting experiment too. And how about, for instance, an occasional concert allowing technology such as Facebooking or Tweeting realtime for the audience to share the experience? I know many of you will gasp as you read that, but will something like that really ruin or cheapen the concert (of course there are clear problems in having 2,500 mobile phones out and on in a concert, but those concerns aside)? If it allows more people to enjoy the music – oh right, we forgot about that – while maintaining musical integrity, why not?
    What I’m trying to say is that perhaps people are not coming to concerts because they are afraid – not of the idea of trying something new and unknown, but of the fact that it is a relatively anti-social experience.
    We need to find a middle ground, and balance the historically important culture of classical music with the mindset of current times. We simply cannot expect to operate concert halls and concerts as they were 200 years ago if we want them to survive, but there is also a tradition that should not be ruined for the sake of cheap marketing and audience appeal. It’s a challenging situation, and sadly has little to do with what it is serving: the music itself.

  13. Jason speaks for me as well.

    Hearing that the most powerful man in the world in classical music recording sounds like someone in a bar telling us he does not know much about classical music or posh wine, but he knows what he likes, is not at all what I wanted to know. Nor does it take us anywhere, except to indicate that Norman’s writings of a few years ago about the End being Nigh were a little premature in their time but wholly apposite now. Over decades the classical business became bloated and the scale of Universal Classics’ administration now has much in common with Mr. Creosote reaching his last mint.

    If Max Hole’s vision were all the hope we have, then we would have an insuperable problem. Universal Classics have more executives and administration than classical sales can support and must soak up a huge proportion of their profits. We have seen what happened with other multi-national big-brand classical labels, not least EMI, and one has to wonder what the future holds for the last remaining heavyweight in the ring.

  14. Gary Carpenter says:

    I wonder if a board meeting with Max Hole in any way resembles the Biggus Dickus scene in ‘The Life Of Brian’…

  15. Hmm. By his own admission someone who doesn’t really know much classical music “but has enjoyed the bits he’s listened to”. Would we listen to anyone wanting to run the railways who admitted they knew little about trains but liked the look of them and suggested they paint them a different colour? If you’re looking for a night out, a bit of James Horner before your meal, a bit of a twang, nothing too demanding, fantastic trans-genre marketing opportunities with a range of consumer industries then this seems pretty sound. Otherwise it sounds like guff.

  16. Suspect that we may have here another case of a US problem being assumed to be a global one.

    • Lord Montague says:

      Exactly. Classical music is doing relatively well and concert attendance is bigger than ever in history of mankind in Central and Northern Europe and elsewhere. Also when numbers are quoted, one has to check carefully where they come from. 3% market share is a US number. The share is higher in other parts of the world.

      Max Hole is what he is and his comments have to be taken as such.
      He is a leading business man in the music industry. His interest is, to make more money.
      The strategy of the recording industry to achieve that is to popularize and trivialize music, so more records can be sold to more people. It’s his job to sell records, not to create art.

      So his concept is to take anything educational and “complicated” out of the product, in order to appeal to the masses.

      He has no interest in music. Music is the vehicle he uses. The recording industry today pretty much is a parasite to music. It just exploits. It doesn’t build or create anything artistic. It doesn’t invest into artistic endeavors.

      Max Hole’s comments are thus irrelevant for the art but to be taken serious because of the influence he has as a big shot in the business.

      • Lord Montague says:

        Clarification: not all recording industry is parasitic. The majors are the problem, the corporate structures are the problem, the share holder principle is the problem.

        Smaller labels, often run by owners, are a much better base for combining artistic and economic objectives.

        In the old days, major labels only were able to support classical recording departments, because the corporate bosses did not only see it as revenue generation, but also as image and cultural investments.

        Philips, Sony et al were labels, that produced classical music because they wanted to and they considered these departments to be non-tangible assets. It was never really profitable for them from a corporate level perspective.

        Only when the managers changed over the generations, and the younger guys moved in who had no affiliation with classical music. did classical music become the red headed step child in their corporations.

  17. Michael Hurshell says:

    “Classical music” is art music. Even discussing it in terms of popular music is ridiculous. Core problem: music education. The idea that “interactive” elements are missing or helpful is merely another instance of wanting to accommodate the lazy habits prevalent in 21st century “leisure time.” Having a conversation with a neighbor at a rock concert, above and beyond the acoustical considerations (amplified music not disturbed by other sounds), is possible – or possibly even necessary – because much, if not most. popular music is built out of extremely primitive musical elements (simple harmonies, repetitive rhythms, unchanging volume etc.). A symphony, or a movement in a symphony, by Beethoven, makes rather different demands on the hearer; and one of those demands is, be quiet, open your ears, and enjoy the narrative, the drama, the rich landscape of color and expression. And, I might add, the thorough enjoyment of such music, by a silent and educated audience, is deeply communal and cannot be replaced by canned music. But if young people are not offered the chance to find out whether this art form moves them – if music is not taught at schools – if support for culture is forever tied to the stockmarket – then things look pretty bleak. And, of course, the discussion will be carried on, focusing (yet again) on such silly details as “dress code” and “forbidding architecture.” Yes, art music written between, say, 1600 to 1950 is in some senses a museum; if you don’t like it, fine. But don’t demean it by trying to turn it into another “quick gratification, no pre-requisite knowledge needed, I’m ok you’re ok” arcade attraction. That will not help. Only music education – begun at a very early age, I’d recommend pre school as the right place to start – can open up the possibilities of a large, appreciative audience of the future; and if that doesn’t happen, how very sad for the many human beings who will never know what they are missing.

  18. David Boxwell says:

    I think it’s spelled “symphony.” “Sinfini” is incorrect. That’s the name of a white zinfandel, I seem to recall.

    That’s right, appoint a corporate head of the last important classical music record producer who just likes “bits” of classical music–and the people who like bits, too. The soothing bits for falling asleep to and the up-tempo bits for sex. Other bits can be used to provide background music for dinner.

    • Sinfini Music is the name of the Universal site. Check it out.

      • The Sinfini site is a giant clutter and definitely not user friendly. I personally was very unimpressed by it. I am and would also be highly suspicious of anything on the site as it is, as Norman writes above, run by Universal Music. The same people who appointed, as head of classics, a man who only likes the “bits” of classical music that he has heard already. Having classical music managed and overseen by this company and these people can not be healthy for either classical music or those who are curious about it. Universal Music lost the plot long ago with classics and will only attempt to make as much money as possible out of the “bits” and then pull the plug and move on to something else.

        • It’s a work in progress. When did you last look at it?

          • I have looked at it a few times, most recently just this past weekend, and find it terribly uninteresting, both for the core classical buyer/listener, as well as for a neophyte. It is neither exciting, fun nor adventurous, just another online classical site that ultimately attempts to drive the reader to make purchases and promote product. Nothing wrong with that, but it could and should be done in a more cutting-edge, animated way.

            One sees that you are extremely supportive of the ‘Sinfini’ site Norman and have read articles and seen your ‘Album of the Week’ entries on the site and you often promote Sinfini entries here on your blog. That is fine, but don’t you think that you should always do that with a disclaimer, as what makes this blog so interesting, is its impartiality, its objectivity and its openness. Norman, if you are being paid in any way by Universal Music for any contribution to the Sinfini site, no matter how big or small, then you really should include a disclaimer before your comments, recommendations and opinions about the site. Otherwise your blog will lose its objectivity and one can imagine that along with that, your own objectivity will pay a price. Still, thanks for all that you do!

          • Thanks for the advice, Claire. I do professional work for site and am very happy to declare it. That does not affect my impartiality in reporting on Universal Music, for better and worse.

  19. What I want to know is why I cannot download Benjamin Grosvenor’s Gershwin recording in the US? I want to buy – Decca won’t sell. Not available on iTunes.

    “On a more positive note, the digital world is a massive opportunity for us”. Perhaps Mr. Hole should do a little more practicing of what he preaches.

    • Mike Williams says:

      Indeed, Mr Hole needs to break down the digital borders that prevent even Europeans from buying online music that is available a few miles away in other European nations.

  20. Why are this Mr. Hole’s comments on classical music deemed relevant? I have been a classical music retailer since 1972 and one of the many changes I’ve seen is the decline of the so-called ‘major’ labels and the rise of the so-called ‘independent’ labels like Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, Hyperion, Naxos/Marco Polo and a host of others. While the indies are nurturing new talent and unearthing unusal repertoire, Universal, EMI, Sony and Warner have mostly concentrated on repackaging their past glories.

  21. People go to concerts of music they are familiar with. No one goes to a Grateful Dead concert unless you’re familiar with the Grateful Dead’s music. Similarly, no one goes to a Mozart symphony concert unless you’re familiar with Mozart symphonies (and probably, THAT particular symphony). Radio and pop culture and all sorts of things make the public a lot more familiar with pop music than classical music. Besides that, it’s easier to be familiar with a two-and-a-half minute song that has three similar verses, a bridge, and a repeated chorus than it is to be familiar with a four-movement symphony that can last 45 minutes. But some of the best concert-going experiences of my life were at classical concerts where I was very familiar with the music. That often meant that I had either learned and performed it myself, learned about it music history classes, and/or taken the time to listen to recordings over and over again. So: music education!

  22. This whole thing about classical music being more “accessible” and of orchestras and organizations “connecting more with their audiences” is just another symptom of a general dumbing down of our culture at large, of catering to the lowest common denominator — because unfortunately it is the lowest common denominator that produces profit and sustainability. The causes I believe are manifold; education is obviously involved but the general ethos of a nation, of a culture, plays in my opinion an enormous role. There used to be a time when people with money felt a certain pressure to have a genuine appreciation for the arts and for culture in general, ans thus supported them generously, but this tends to be less and less the case. It’s perfectly acceptable nowadays to be a complete idiot as long as one has an impressive bank account. The bottom line is that it takes effort to appreciate classical music, just as it takes effort to understand quality literature or a movie that does not fall under the category of “entertainment.” But our time is not one of effort, it is one of quick fixes, immediate gratification, and a great reluctance to bettering oneself — unless, of course, one is talking about becoming more fit and thin. It doesn’t really matter whether or not we hold concerts in intimidating buildings or whether or not musicians still wear tuxedos (which, as a musician, is a “habit” I actually wouldn’t mind being done with): those are superficial fixes that address perhaps the symptom but certainly not the problem. All of those things are perhaps part of the reason why it’s been a while since we’ve had a Mahler or a Richard Strauss and why very few of today’s soloists can match the artistry of interpreters from only 50 years ago. I’m not a believer in this new trend of classical music: elitism, or what may be perceived as such, is not the problem, dumbing down is — even though there may be, arguably, an extremely arrogant element in the social aspect of classical music. It will be interesting to see what comes of classical music in the next 30 years… I’m not optimistic.

    • Lord Montague says:

      Very well said.

      Regarding the Role of Mr. Hole. (nomen est omen):

      “We live in an age of music for people who don’t like music. The record industry discovered some time ago that there aren’t that many people who actually like music. For a lot of people, music’s annoying, or at the very least they don’t need it. They discovered if they could sell music to a lot of those people, they could sell a lot more records.”

      T Bone Burnett

  23. Lord Montague says:

    “Record companies like to make money, and that is their only goal. They do not care about the content that they sell – they care about maximizing their profits. It is because of this that I hate record companies with the same passion that I hate venture capitalists. The record companies do not try to foster a creative environment which rewards musicians who serve their respective niche, but create an environment which attempts to market a small amount of music to the largest audience possible. It is more profitable for the record company to sell a few decent records in bulk than to have a vast array of cult hits that sell decently. ”
    Numair Faraz

  24. More characters confirmed for Deadpool game

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