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Bad record news: Harmonia Mundi shuts half its music shops in France

Following the closure of the Virgin Megastore in Paris, classical CD and book sales have take a further body blow with the announcement that Harmonia Mundi will shut 15 of their 30 stores around the country.

Some 38 jobs will go.


Eva Coutaz, owner of Harmonia Mundi, said: ‘Dans la tourmente de notre époque, nos préoccupations sont d’assurer la pérennité de notre société, fondée il y a 55 ans. La musique et le livre restent plus que jamais au coeur de notre activité et de notre avenir (in the turmoil of our time, our concern is to ensure the longevity of our company, founded 55 years ago. Music and books are more than ever at the heart of our business and our future.’

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  1. Jon Eckleben says:

    So sad–they are my favorite classical label, primarily for the quality of sound and the depth of coverage, but also for the high-quality packaging. What is next? The financial world appears to have decreed there can no longer be a place for classical music. what a world we live in, when we can start costly wars at the drop of a hat, but can’t subsidize the arts.

  2. Blame it on Amazon – Its a fact of live that we all prefer shopping for books and CDs (or download) from the comfort of our couch rather than rushing thru busy streets.

  3. This sort of thing will only accelerate in the next six to eight months. I predict that all of the Harmonia Mundi shops in France will be closed by this time next year. Classical music is no longer perceived as being an essential in the life of most “educated” people. Much of the blame indeed lies with our education system, who have systematically cut back on music education and music appreciation, but another big part has to do with how the leading recording labels have thrown in the towel and gone after the lowest common denominator. When I see what has become of labels like Deutsche Grammophon, it is obvious that if the people who are running them have thrown in the towel and focus so much more on populism and “sexy” good looking kids who happen to “play” violin or piano, then what hope is there for the industry as a whole. Look at Deutsche Grammophon, for example. For more than ten years they had a President, Michael Lang, an American, who made no excuses for not really knowing very much about classical music and classical artists. He was a jazz man, preferring salsa, samba and other great music to that what his label was renowned for producing for more than 100 years. He drove the company downward and tarnished its image and reputation. His boss at the time, Chris Roberts, also drove the company into the abyss and was eventually fired, far too late however, as the damage done was enormous. Now Max Hole is in charge and I read with astonishment his idiotic statements that in order for them to survive, as he says, classical concerts should allow the public to applaud and cheer at any moment during the performance, among other idiotic populist statements. He in turn appointed the new DG president Mark Wilkinson, probably a nice chap, but my contacts and journalist friends in Berlin tell me that he is over his head in this position and is at heart another populist, believing that commercialism reigns supreme and he repeatedly comes up with half baked ideas of football team choruses and other reality television-like ideas for Deutsche Grammophon, completely forgetting that there is (or was) a very loyal consumer out there, knowing what quality is, who feels abandoned by the cheap projects that they churn out. Yes, there are still some great things, but for the most part, they are consistently aiming at the lowest common denominator and in the process eroding the loyal consumers they once had. It is all short term thinking, with the wrong people at the top. Soon, the shoe will drop and it may, by then, already be too late. Great classical labels like Deutsche Grammophon, EMI and Decca have no place in the portfolios of multinational companies like Universal Music. They are ill matched partners. Classical music has been and will remain a niche market, albeit a decent sized one and these corporate suits applying the pop rule book to it will do nothing except alienate the core buyer and occasionally capture the neophyte, but in the end destroy labels that took more than a century to build. I am not a conservative person, but I can smell stupidity and cheap populism and consumerism from a mile away and that is what I recognise with the so-called major classical labels.

  4. NB this is not about the label, this is about the changing face of retail….some great releases to come and increased investment in digital

    • They may be investing in digital, etc., but the fact remains that digital sales today only represent about one third of recorded music sales and the remaining 66% are today not enough to sustain the retail outlets, then how will it be possible to imagine that Harmonia Mundi, or any other classical recording label will be able to survive on what is only a fraction of the total income? Also, as more and more music is made available digitally, more and more will be available for free, from various sources, legal and illegal. Much will be free sponsored streams or artists making their recordings available for free in order to boost their live concerts, which is where they make their money and always have. The recording companies are doomed and they should face the reality, instead of adding insult to injury, by putting in incompetent managers in the belief that they will save the ship. The ship hit the iceberg ages ago and has been in a slow sinking ever since. Wake up!

  5. Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    Yes we all prefer ordering from our computer rather than going to the local store, realize they do not have the recording but that they will order it and it’ll take 2 weeks, come back 3 weeks later just to find out it’s on the way, until we’re told it’s out of stock but they ‘ll try somewhere else… So give the financial world some slack here, sound extracts and convenience have trumped personalized service that depended on the client’s head.

    Finally, I recall in Vancouver in 2006 a retailer called “The Magic Flute”, golden handles on the glass doors and a portly balding fellow welcoming clients who buy. But potential clients, not so much… And when I offered him a free copy from our new independent release Schubert/Liszt -that later on received 3 stars and a good review on CBC’s Sound Advice program- the guy looked at me as if I was a stain on his carpet and would not even bother to check it out. So when less than a year later the shop closed… I was hardly surprised.

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