Piracy and classical music

October 2, 2007 at 04:27 PM · How have the classical record industry been affected be Piracy where you live?

Is it common that excellent violinists can´t find a record deal?

Replies (29)

October 4, 2007 at 07:06 PM · Piracy in classical music seems miniscule compared with other types of music. I've based this assumption on the observation that my teacher, who listens almost exclusively to classical music, didn't even know what a 'bootleg' was. I own several bootlegged copies of music produced by popular (non-classical) artists. My excuse for this crime is that some music is not released through the legitimate channels, and I'm also convinced that some artists release bootlegs deliberately to give themselves some street credibility.

October 4, 2007 at 07:36 PM · I asked my pianist, who has a CD collection in the (seemingly) thousands of titles, and who also uses his iTunes extensively about how likely he was to download classical music off the 'net, whether legally or not. His reply is interesting to me partially because he is someone completely and genuinely addicted to music, someone whose musical tastes are far more wide-ranging than mine (yes, he listens to pop though he does, I believe, draw the line at hip-hop), and someone who spends roughly ten times what I do on recordings and downloads.

His reply? "I don't download classical tracks, but I buy classical albums. First of all, the sound quality isn't the same on downloads and, though this doesn't matter as much with a pop song, I hear the difference in classical works. Second, when I want a classical album, I don't just want one track; I want the artist's entire vision - pieces in their entirety, overall programming, liner notes, and graphics."

I take Michael to be typical of the "educated" classical buyer. His purchases fall into the study CDs (those featuring works he's curious about), fan CDs (those featuring artists he admires) and impulse buys of unusual stuff he finds while browsing store shelves. The other, far larger, demographic is probably the novice listener, who's heard a work that intrigues him or her and will look online, first, for a recording of that work. They're more likely to download than Michael, I'm sure, but whether they do so regularly is another matter. In all, I'd bet that sort of customer is the law-abiding sort, though. Although I hasten to add that last assertion is utterly hunch-based and not at all something I can prove.

In any case, classical's presence online is dwarfed by other forms of music. And organized piracy probably considers such fringe interests to fly under their radar (i.e. to not be a sufficiently large moneymaker to attract their efforts).

For what it's worth, the RIAA has a chart showing the stats for online vs. CD sales by genre on their website. Google "RIAA" and you should be able to find the actual numbers.

October 5, 2007 at 06:58 AM · "Piracy in classical music seems miniscule compared with other types of music."

Piracy in classical music is a significant problem indeed.

It is possible that it´s better in the US but in many parts of Europe the classsical sales have declined more then 30% during the past 6 years.

Many classsical recordstores have shut down due to declining sales.

October 5, 2007 at 10:55 AM · The classical artists who have CDs that would be selling would make so little from them anyway compared to what they get from touring, don't you think? If they make so little comparatively from CDs, then you have to think CDs are for promotion, from their business point of view. And if they're for promotion, does it matter what they're making from their sales? To the artist it could be a cost, to something in the business of selling records it's a profit. I don't know how it's all set up.

October 5, 2007 at 09:08 AM · "The classical artists who have CDs that would be selling would make so little from them anyway compared to what they get from touring, don't you think?"

It would be wonderfull if many people go and see classical music live. Unfortunately it´s very few that go to classical concerts in most countries with a few exceptions like Russia and China for instance.

October 5, 2007 at 09:33 AM · So you're saying they don't make anything from concerts either. Don't know what to say then. Get a job in town or shoot your food, I guess.

October 5, 2007 at 09:43 AM · "So you're saying they don't make anything from concerts either. Don't know what to say then. Get a job in town or shoot your food, I guess."

Very few at least.

October 5, 2007 at 10:09 AM · That's a different problem.

October 5, 2007 at 12:03 PM · Piracy - Aaaarrrrr!

Unfortunately, there are many careers that are facing enormous problems thanks to the incredible advances in technology. Piracy in the music business is just one of these problems. Look at the other problems today (mentioned routinely in violinist.com) in becoming a professional violinist. But it's a problem in becoming an artist of almost any kind, and also a travel agent, a printer, a telephone operator, and so forth. Even the heretofore stable job of professional secretary is being negatively impacted by the computer revolution. I think you have to be very realistic and very strategic to plan your career in today's world. Unfortunately, most people just drift into their careers without any real careful planning for the problems, setbacks, and changes in the field. Everyone needs a "Plan B."

Piracy is a tough one.


October 5, 2007 at 12:56 PM · need to separate outsourcing from piracy. the former is a legit, natural economic trend of the inevitable global economy, the latter is illegal activity. microsoft in china tolerates piracy because it is their weird way to gain market share.

i was looking at a program where they traced the fake products made mostly in china, how they got to a lawless region in south america bordering argentina, brazil, etc. millions of dollars were generated from transacting the knock-offs, from cds, to dvds, to cellphones, to anything. the profit is then funneled to middle east in support of questionable groups, aka, terrorists.

still, my hunch is that classical cds, piracy or not, are not big money makers. not sure how much piracy is to blame, or how much youtube is to blame:)

Prince is suing youtube. http://blog.wired.com/business/2007/09/prince-to-sue-y.html

October 5, 2007 at 01:04 PM · a propos piracy and RIAA: a sentence from yesterday... $9.250 in statutory damages per song

October 5, 2007 at 01:03 PM · "still, my hunch is that classical cds, piracy or not, are not big money makers. not sure how much piracy is to blame, or how much youtube is to blame:)"

Classical piratecd:s are bigbusiness for pirates in Russia and China.

It couldn´t believe it when I first heard it but unfortunately it´s true.

October 5, 2007 at 07:08 PM · I tend to agree with Jim...I've always thought mp3 sharing and copying would be good for classical music. it seems to me the money an artist would have made on CD profits is much less than the money they make because people go hear their concerts after listening to a copy of a recording they ripped from their friend's iTunes.

October 5, 2007 at 07:12 PM · Something else to consider for this thread...Radiohead is releasing their new album on October 10th. You can order a box set with extras for something like 40 pounds, or you can download from their website. The cost of the download is whatever you want it to be. Seems most people are choosing to pay about what they'd pay for a CD (15-20).

As a (somewhat irrelevant) aside, I'd much sooner pay for a new radiohead album then the latest recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto.

(flame wars, here we come...)

October 5, 2007 at 07:30 PM · I read a newsweek article that said classical music sales on the internet have greatly increased this past year. The rest of the industry has suffered because of file sharing etc.

The main reason for this trend is that companies put out a great variety ofquantities of one album, they may buy music, even the most obscure for little cost. Although Classical music consumers do not buy vast quantities of an individual album, they can buy a few from the many choices with the labels still making a profit.

Its also a lot harder to get mahler 3 off limewire than it is to get oops...I did it again.

October 5, 2007 at 07:46 PM · I don't know Radiohead. I'm into Hilary at the moment, because of a free video I saw, which started out as a live broadcast on TV. I'd probably buy her CD of Tchaikovsky to see what it was like, before I bought Radiohead to see what it was like. But without the vid, wouldn't have had any interest. Also more likely to go to a concert because of it.

October 5, 2007 at 08:05 PM · ah jim, but that's my point. you wouldn't have to buy radiohead to see what it was like. they allow free downloads off their site. same idea as the free video you saw of Hilary, I guess...

you should know radiohead. =)

October 5, 2007 at 08:33 PM · Ok, I'll download them for free and if I like them I'll go back and download them again for some amount tbd as a function of activity in the pleasure receptors of my brain.

October 5, 2007 at 08:52 PM · I was watching a friend of mine on youtube just now playing for tips on the sidewalk in Heidelburg. They should set up youtube so you can click on something and send them a tip.

November 26, 2007 at 06:04 AM · I myself don't know if I ever want to be "paid" a cent for any music I would ever have shared with the world. And – that's not because I want it stolen and offered by Monsanto (or Sony corporation) as a commercially adept hybrid.

November 26, 2007 at 06:53 AM · As I perceive it to be :

musical artists should record on their

independent label---internet,hopefully has ceased from shoving down our throats music which large corporations have profited upon.

Music is a entirely different world now,as is everthing because of instant access for everyone.

Forget Sony--EMI--Deutsche Grammophone,etc in all circumstances---if you must,sign a short term contract...

the 'wheels' of the music industry will decay because of self publishing AND this is a good thing---they have ruled for too long and have taken advantage of music artists for their own profit.

hopefully,internet will change the scenario---yet live performances by artists will remain their main source of income... touring is inevitable for the best of us---if its a "house tour"---then who cares ?

for most,playing alone or in kitchens or in recitals is enough...

playing in a pit seems dismal to me [as in opera] what goes on in the pit ? do you really bring snacks and drinks ? is that why the audience does not see the orchestra in the pit---except for the head of the conductor ?

Fill me in,I want to know.

November 26, 2007 at 10:04 AM · I am not quite sure, this thread is the right one for this idea, but let me try:

I have got both the know-how, technical prerequisites, bandwidth and the business connections to set up a website for independent classic publication (listening and download), working title "ClassPub". And this at virtually the sound quality of the original recording. To give you an idea about the sound quality, listen to the "high: ogg" samples on this test page (never mind the temporary q&d design there). Depending on your software setup you might need to download and install either Winamp or Windows Media Player 11 to be able to play the OGG files.

What would artists get as ClassPub member:

recordings of virtually original quality (live or studio), published and findable (Google etc.) in the internet

free decision at what price the recordings are offered for listening and/or download; free offers for career building purposes possible, too

free advice from ClassPub/me on pricing strategy

promotional material (pics, texts, links) going along with the recordings published and findable (Google etc.) in the internet

the fees collected for download/listening of their recordings

The business model would look like this (or a modification thereof):

Artists subscribe to this publication service on an annual base (around 480$ per annum - payments in advance).

Artists provide ClassPub with two full works/movements at full recording quality for promotional/introductory purposes for free.

All fees collected minus a 15% ClassPub commission go to the publishing artist. Beware: ClassPub deals with single artists only. It is solely the single artist's responsibility to split and distribute the fees if necessary.

Recordings come from the artists only and this in publishable web form or on CD/DVD to be mailed in.

Promotional material in reasonable amounts comes from the artists only and this in publishable web form.

The single artists declare in legally binding form that ClassPub has unlimited rights to promote, publish, license and sell the recordings/promotional material and any liabilites stemming from this operation are with the artists only.

ClassPub has the unconditional right to refuse recordings and/or publishing material for quality reasons. (just to make sure, ClassPub does not turn into GarbPub)

ClassPub has the right to select cooperation partners as the business volume grows. Starting cooperations does not change the basic business model for the subscribers.

All payments go via PayPal exclusively, in both directions.

During the founding phase the ClassPub risk is limited to the following: If less than 20 artists will subscribe to Classpub within the first eight weeks after establishing Classpub, ClassPub has the right to cancel its operation and refund all subscribers minus a 20% handling fee.

All numbers here are subject to further calculations and therefore tentative only.

But we have YouTube? Yes, but no income through YouTube and a trash quality environment for professional recordings, basically no space for promotion, links etc. and artifical size and time limitations and therefore: low recording quality as a rule.

And we have I-Tunes? Yes, but I-Tunes doesn't help you to get into it as an artist at all. And 160k or 192k bit rates don't mean too much, equally important are the compression method and the parameters (other than bit rate) used during making the sound files.

Have a look at "A question for FMF" and my contribution there.


November 26, 2007 at 08:23 AM · Sound quality on I-Tunes is 160 k and you have to pay.

Sound quality on oink was 192 k at the least-- and it was free.

You figure-is this a reason for restructure ?

Big labels have been ripping the public and artists for years now.

The industry is changing rapidly--day to day circumstances vary--drastically !

There really is no need to be pressured any more bythe recording industry---now,consumers can hear independent artists of their choice and decide for themselves what to purchase OR what performances to attend.

In future,most artists will record on indie labels or their own label-thus eliminating huge corporations that have hammered notations into the public for years.

This is good--for artists AND consumers !

November 26, 2007 at 05:35 PM · "In future,most artists will record on indie labels or their own label-thus eliminating huge corporations that have hammered notations into the public for years.

This is good--for artists AND consumers !"

The problem with small labels is that they rarely have the money or resources to promote very much.

be happy if you can go even up is a very common situation for small indielabels today

November 26, 2007 at 07:17 PM · The market for classical music is so small that there are only so many violinists that can make a living as recording artists.

You can have all the indie labels in the world... there are only so many recordings of Beethoven Sonatas that the market will tolerate.

I like the indi label a lot... rappers and some rock groups have done it for a few decades with massive success. I know Gil Shaham and Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg started their own labels. All you really need anymore is distribution and marketing. If you're one of the very few who can get a major label behind you, it's probably still a pretty good deal because they have relationships with most of the organizations/magazines and whatever else that will get your name out there.

December 7, 2007 at 06:16 AM · I'm definitely waiting for Britney Speers to make a recording of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto in

the "non objective" style..using her voice! Someone must teach her this.

Along with that, I will (like I never have) start eating the appropriate diet of Frito Lay products, Pop, other stuff – and when: I need something cult-ural \ I'll have pop-corn or a burrito! I'll also! start going to: junk food restaurants; bars; shopping, at the mall; spending: vacations... where there are palm trees, and I'll: use my HIPS more / when dancing.

December 7, 2007 at 06:24 PM · I will also spend days calling numbers where I know I will be put on hold and get to hear their canned music.

December 7, 2007 at 08:05 PM · I just wish that the canned music has spots like tiddly winks.

December 9, 2007 at 04:41 AM · By the way, I'm just joking. I do want to be more interested in pop music...

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