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The music industry’s superpower line-up

We are about to share with you a picture of the men who run the classical side of 50 percent of the record business, the clan chiefs of the Universal Music Group.

They appear to be posing for a police photo against a bare-brick wall, and two or three of them look as if they have some experience standing in a football wall, judging by where their hands are clutched. Not a tie among them (presumably removed for safety before the line-up).

Actually, they were gathered in Berlin to celebrate 40 years of one of the most agreeable men in the business, the ever-gracious Costa Pilavachi, senior v-p of classical at UMG.

Here’s the line-up:

universal chiefs L-R:  Mark Wilkinson (President, Deutche Grammophon Germany, Paul Moseley (Managing Director, Decca Classics), Costa Pilavachi (honouree), Max Hole (Chairman & CEO UMGI), Andrew Kronfeld (President Global Marketing), Dickon Stainer (President, Decca Records Group), Alexander Buhr (Managing Director, Mercury Classics). Photographs by Julia Schoierer

Now this is where I need to declare an interest. Some of Costa’s friends were ask to contribute to a video for the occasion. I was one of them, mentioning what I hope was the most discreditable incident in an otherwise illustrious career. That’s why my name appears in another lineup – the one going out later today as a release to the music press:

Berlin, Tuesday 12 March 2013 – Universal Music Group International’s Chairman and CEO Max Hole tonight honoured Costa Pilavachi, the company’s SVP Classical A&R, at a private dinner in Berlin with a surprise celebration of Pilavachi’s first 40 years in the classical music business.


On the final night of Universal Music’s classical conference and under the banner of; ‘Costa Pilavachi, 40 classic years……and still going strong,’ Max Hole presented a stunned Pilavachi with a short film featuring well-wishes from many of his friends and colleagues from his extensive career. Contributors ranged from Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mitsuko Uchida, Joseph Calleja and Hayley Westenra to Peter Gelb, Roger Wright, Clive Gillinson, Zarin Mehta, Norman Lebrecht and Pilavachi’s fellow countryman, Greece’s world famous composer Vangelis.


In addition to the film, Costa was also presented with a specially created, framed commemorative disc based on the layout of an orchestra and featuring music from the four decades of his career to date.


Max Hole said: “Costa is a brilliant and inspired colleague. He is respected, trusted and loved by the many people he has worked with over the last 40 years. He has been invaluable in the restructuring of Universal’s classical division and I look forward to continued collaboration with him as we further evolve our classical business.”



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  1. scarpia616 says:

    What an unimpressive and decidely scruffy bunch. It is profoundly to be hoped that looks deceive . . .

  2. Maybe Universal and the others- and their high profile clients like Yo Yo Ma and Alicia Weilerstein, etc.- should also be contacted to help re: lobbying the EU for good regulations on traveling with instruments. It is after all something that affects their clients in a most fundamental way, and these people are ones with real clout.

  3. I must agree with the earlier comment, that they indeed do look like an extremely “scruffy bunch”, more like used truck salesmen after a football match than purveyors of great music. No wonder most of the stuff that they issue is of little interest to the passionate classical buyer anymore. It sadly reflects what I see in this photo, probably nice guys, but without any aesthetic sense, sparkle or refinement. Imagine if other prestigious brands would issue a photo like this of their top brass, i.e. Apple, Microsoft, Rolls Royce, Mont Blanc, Cartier. Impossible! Only in the dying classical recording business could this even be imagined. The worst offender is, without a doubt, the ‘President’ of Deutsche Grammophon, looking like he’s had far too much to drink and wearing scruffy wrinkled trousers and having his hair all over the place in a mess. He is followed by the ‘President’ of Decca, wearing worn out faded jeans and appalling shoes. My God, what a bunch! I wish them all the best, but perhaps Universal should bring in a stylist. Congratulations to Mr. Pilavachi, who at least in the photo looks happy surrounded by the (sour) cream of the classical business.

    • Great comment! I couldn’t agree more. What I don’t understand though is, Universal Music is supposed to be the largest entertainment company, like in show business, great artists, videos, photo shoots, image and PR, etc. The fact that they allow their top senior classical management to go around looking like homeless tramps into the grunge scene is bad enough, but that they circulate and distribute a photo like this to the media means that they don’t even know, understand, imagine or even care about the impression that it gives to the outside world. Their big boss Max Hole seems to have really lost the plot. I read his absurd comments about him believing that audiences should be able to stand up and shout out their delight in the middle of classical concerts, while the performer is in the middle of playing! Now, when seeing the ‘troops’ in uniform that he has recruited and surrounded himself with, it is easy to understand where his tastes are. Who are these people and how did they ever get control of a once dignified, respected and esteemed business?

  4. Helen Tuckey says:

    No women?

    • That was exactly my thought! (I am a different Henry btw.)

      • These guys give me the creeps, all of them! No wonder there are no woman amongst them, as we all have a woman’s intuition, which at least in my case loudly says, ‘STAY AWAY!’

  5. Michael Endres says:

    No women,no Asians,no Afro Carribeans.,..this is as bad as the VPO !

  6. How sad to see the commentary head south like this. As a friend and relative of Costa, who is one of the lights of the musical world in my humble opinion, I’ve been awestruck by what he’s done in keeping ‘my kind of music’ alive in an age where so much music is simply raw expression of childish angst. Congratulations — Sir — on a job majestically done, and many beautiful returns of the day.

    Nils Peter Mickelson, classical music aficionado for now 70 years and counting . . .

    • Joan Robertson says:

      I don’t think that anybody here directly criticised Mr. Pilavachi, only the unkempt look of the people around him in the photo. You must agree that it is rather shocking to see corporate presidents of well-known prestigious companies, brands that we grew up with and formed part of our life’s landscape, looking like truck drivers or the disheveled homeless. That does, unfortunately reflect on the brand, on Universal Music and sadly speaks volumes about the sad state of the classical music industry, that it has been reduced to this. Where is the dignity, the respect, the pride? I am not ‘old school’ and have nothing against casual dressing at work, but there is a big gap between that and how some of these guys look. It is disrespectful to the labels that they represent and the heritage that they are responsible for. Apparently their big boss doesn’t care, otherwise how would he have allowed a photo like this to have gone out with them looking like this. I’m sure that Mr. Pilavachi knows better and he doesn’t appear offensive in the photo.

      • “Looks can be deceiving.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Have you ever seen a painting of Beethoven? What is this ‘classical music industry’ of which you speak? Is not music for its own enjoyment and appreciation, regardless of all the wires, electrons, binary bits, plastic discs and tape, and wonderful caring people that make it possible for us 10,000 miles away to enjoy the Berlin Philharmonic?

        This may indeed be a ‘big’ effort — perhaps an industry — but behind it lie many people who care deeply about the result — and yes the ‘bottom line’ that pays the bills and rewards all the families of all the workers that are involved. My own son, Sunil, had the opportunity to visit in London when he was quite young, and these same disheveled gentlemen were humble enough to let him tag along on a visit to Italy where they auditioned an up and coming pianist. He will never forget the day! And his piano playing will never be the same again.

        We need to keep in mind that “big corporations” become big because they offer great services. As they founder, others come to their rescue and indeed may thus become bigger. That is hardly a reason for contempt. Remember, a group hug will rumple your clothing, too.

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          “This may indeed be a ‘big’ effort — perhaps an industry — but behind it lie many people who care deeply about the result.”

          The results they care about today are exclusively to be found at the bottom of Excel spreadsheets. Most of the guys in the picture are spineless corporate suits without the suits.

          • Tom Beavis says:

            Bravo! Well said. These guys are forced to only think about the bottom line, otherwise they would be out. The ‘big boss’ looks more like a financial or hedge fund manager than a guy overseeing a creative industry. That’s just the way it is nowadays, so nobody should be surprised by the lack of anything exciting coming from them. The music recording industry has always been a macho affair and quite amazingly not actually bursting with truly creative types, as it once was thirty or more years ago. While there are woman in some high positions, the very top level senior management are all men. Perhaps some of these guys look so shabby and neglected because they know that their days are numbered in a dying industry and are already saving for a rainy day. I would, if I were them.

          • Fabio, Tom, I hate to point it out, but if there weren’t people bothered about the numbers, none of labels would exist. Without taking care of the numbers, there wouldn’t be any investment in new classical artists (and Decca and DG have been signing and working with quite a few).
            “Back in the day” the income and profits from record sales were so large there was perhaps more scope to be artistic and hope the bottom line would take care of itself. Now, consumers pay so little for their music (in relative terms), and buy less of it, so being very careful with the numbers is a must in order to ensure the music we care about can be invested in and the artists we care about heard.

  7. This lineup desperately needs some diversity. Guys, call me; I’m available.

  8. This is a difficult conundrum, isn’t it? Imagine if these gentlemen had all appeared in ties, bespoke suits, shiny shoes, smartly arrayed, buffed and coiffured… would not the comments here be critical of them all once again, for being “sharp suits”, know-nothings who abuse their artists to spend the profits on flashy clothes and photo-ops, etc. etc.?
    Instead, we get a snap taken at an internal gathering, which, from all we can read above, does not seem to be one intended for public consumption or sent to press around the world. And c’mon Joan, when was the last time you saw a truck driver at a work gathering in a suit?!
    Poor gents can’t win!

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