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The switch from EMI Classics to Warner does not run smooth

In frantic haste to erase all traces of EMI, Warner Classics are slipping up all over the place.

rattle rachSimon Rattle’s new album is coming out with a Warner logo (above), but the product description and accompanying press release read: EMI Classics releases an exciting new recording of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and The Bells.

Meanwhile, among the first batch of back catalogue proudly announced by Warner Classics is this:

emi vaughan williams


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  1. Jonathan says:

    Why should anybody be surprised by these “slip-ups”? Whether it is EMI, Warner or Universal Classics, the people put in charge to mind the shop in the classical business at the majors today are sadly, and for the most part, incompetent ciphers, following orders from other ill informed and unknowledgeable suits and on and on it goes. EMI Classics falling into the hands of Warner instead of Universal Classics doesn’t change anything in the final outcome. Rather than be staffed by knowledgeable professionals, the majors today hire recycled pop band managers, special project managers, heavy metal club managers, etc., all in a short-sighted and extremely naive attempt to popularise classical music. Unfortunately, probably only in the music business can executives get away with such amateurism. Imagine the same attitudes in the food and beverage industry, i.e. take a person from Coca Cola or Pepsi and put them in charge of marketing the entire portfolio of Gallo wines, even though the person knows nothing about wine, but knows everything about Coca Cola and its distribution. Maybe the person enjoys a glass from time to time, but couldn’t and never would be able to tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet. To imagine that this person would be able to apply his/her skills distributing a mass consumer product and transfer that to wine is ridiculous and no serious winery would do that. Yet, the classical world believes this to be possible. When will they realise that classical music is a niche market and that by believing otherwise they are not only not expanding the classical business, but destroying the very existing business that they had and alienating their once loyal consumers at the same time. As a dear friend of mine, who is a professor at London Business School said to me, “there are few sectors of industry more amateurish and with more overpaid and arrogant executives than that found in the music business.” It can’t last for long like it is. Hopefully!

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Absolutely spot-on with your analogy. The problem is: is anyone who really matters in this run-down business listening to what you are saying? I fear not.

    • Angela Cockburn says:

      Actually, Coca-cola has a small wines division in Australia, at least.

    • Jonathan has stated the position in a most eloquent fashion. He is quite correct for the most part.

      The only thing to think about is that those major label record company employees that have “classical” taste ( and believe it or not there are some) do not necessarily know what they are talking about any more than yob suits.They invariably fail because of their complete misunderstanding and underestimation of the intellect and taste of their niche audience.

      They may know the difference between a concerto and a symphony but they have no idea what the public ( and this means classical buyers as well) wants.

      On one hand classical marketing “experts” and a&r types feel that they need to “dumb down” the marketplace to achieve elusive sales but they also force themselves to present their attempts to foist ridiculous “commercial” projects on the buying public as “the future of classical music” to preserve their inner sense of snobbery and feigned superiority. This is usually an attempt to give meaning to their meager efforts. Guess what? They’re usually 100 per cent wrong both commercially and esthetically.

      So until classical music labels are run by the same type of fanatical fans who run the other niche labels in the indie pop and hip hop sectors all music lovers will be subjected to 1990s trance artists and accordionists playing Lady Gaga songs with strings as “the future of classical music”.

      Unfortunately in the corporate jungle these music fans will never get the chance.

      Don’t get me wrong. Proper crossover music has its place just like any other genre but please don’t insult the entire music buying public, both pop and classical, by telling them that it’s the “future” of anything.

      Personally I would rather hear a hip hop recording that is heartfelt any day rather than a “classical” recording that is a bogus marketing exercise..

  2. Bill Dodd says:

    Very well put, Jonathan

  3. Yi-Peng Li says:

    It’s hard to stomach the fact that Warner is handling the EMI catalogue. I tend to have doubts because I’ve seen that they are quite cavalier towards classical labels. I have doubts about their managing style.

    I don’t know how this will pan out, but sometimes I sense that Sony and Warner might tie up one day.

  4. Robert Kenchington says:

    I hold a retail account with EMI Classics and understand that Warner Classics will officially take over the running of the EMI catalogue as from September 16th. As an internet CD retailer, I’m not happy about this at all because EMI recordings were worth up to 60% of my business. I’m afraid it’s all a bit of a mess because any preorders I make will have to be from Warner Classics but as I don’t have a Warner Classics account it means I will have to start from scratch. This means different banking and distribution procedures and probably different staff to deal with. I have to say I have always found EMI Classics very easy and friendly to deal with (unlike Universal) but what it will be like with Warner (a company I was never that keen on in the first place) remains to be seen.

    Certainly the loss of the distinctive EMI logo is a retrograde step and may well confuse and alienate collectors who have faithfully followed the label down the last 115 years. It’s really the equivalent of marketing Aston Martin cars under the banner of Chevrolet. However, I can point out that the budget box series WILL have the Warner logo not the EMI one. It’s all such a pity.

    • Prof Richard Goldberg says:

      I totally agree that loss of the EMI logo is a retrograde step. The Aston Martin Chevrolet comparison is so apt. The EMI Great Recordings of the Century series was the high point in the EMI catalogue since 1998. In 2008, some fool at EMI decided to sell off the HMV trade mark so that there was no longer a distinctive connection with the history of this label. Without even the EMI Classics trade mark, the products look cheap. If Sony had been successful, in buying EMI at least they could have been creative and have brought together labels (Columbia EMI and Columbia US, RCA Victor and HMV) that had long been connected historically.

  5. Jonathan has said it all. This niche market needs to be run by experts with “taste”, who know the difference between a symphony and a concerto. “Crossover” and other innovations are fine, however, the backbone is the back-catalogue, which needs to be renewed with “Quality Product”. We do not need the 150th recording of Beethoven symphonies.

  6. James Chater says:

    As a former employee of Philips classics (before it was swallowed up by Decca), I would urge classical music lovers to steer clear of the labels owned by very large companies and stick to the independents. Many do already.

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