The worst ever US classical sales chart — Slipped Disc

We’ve just seen the Nielsen Soundscan sales ratings for last week and can pronounce, in full confidence, that fewer classical records were sold than at any time since records were kept.

For the first time, no release sold as many as 100 copies in the entire USA — that’s CD sales and downloads combined.

Ouch!

I have to say, I’m at the age where I really don’t need many more classical CDs. I used to grab the box sets with CDs for a buck or two in order to expand my collection. I haven’t bought a single classical CD (i.e., not a box set) in a long time. I’ve pretty much stopped buying box sets as we’ll, though there are a few artists whose sets I would buy if there were available (such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau).

While I subscribe to Apple Music, I don’t listen to much classical music there; I mostly listen to music I own, from CDs I’ve ripped or downloads I’ve purchased. I have enough to keep me busy for a long time.

I have a feeling that, other than real obsessives, there won’t be many classical CD buyers in the future. Young people are growing up with streaming, people my age (mid-50s) have a big enough collection that they don’t need any more versions of the same pieces.

But classical labels will continue to sign good-looking guitarists whose names have diacritics, and fetching female violinists, in the hope that the tide may change…

Source: The worst ever US classical sales chart — Slipped Disc

22 thoughts on “The worst ever US classical sales chart — Slipped Disc

  1. I don’t listen to Classical that often, but always buy new release CDs from my two favorites: Vilde Frang and Alisa Weilerstein.

  2. I don’t listen to Classical that often, but always buy new release CDs from my two favorites: Vilde Frang and Alisa Weilerstein.

  3. Gee, I’ve bought more than 100 CDs the last 6 weeks. But in part that’s because I picked up 3 huge box sets at great prices (including Complete Haydn Symphonies and a 50 cd Arkiv collection). I strongly prefer to buy CDs and rip them. In part that’s to get the liner notes, and in part because I don’t trust anyone’s “cloud” but my own. (That’s both the servers and the comm systems that provide access to same.)

    But while I have the floor, I’m really disgusted at how poorly iTunes handles classical -or any album-based playback-, and at the total mess that is classical CD metadata.

    • I totally understand the box sets. I’d say that, last year, I bought more than 500 CDs, because of several box sets. But I’ve reached saturation.

      And, yes, iTunes isn’t great for classical music; but nothing else is very good either.

  4. Gee, I’ve bought more than 100 CDs the last 6 weeks. But in part that’s because I picked up 3 huge box sets at great prices (including Complete Haydn Symphonies and a 50 cd Arkiv collection). I strongly prefer to buy CDs and rip them. In part that’s to get the liner notes, and in part because I don’t trust anyone’s “cloud” but my own. (That’s both the servers and the comm systems that provide access to same.)

    But while I have the floor, I’m really disgusted at how poorly iTunes handles classical -or any album-based playback-, and at the total mess that is classical CD metadata.

    • I totally understand the box sets. I’d say that, last year, I bought more than 500 CDs, because of several box sets. But I’ve reached saturation.

      And, yes, iTunes isn’t great for classical music; but nothing else is very good either.

  5. “Don’t need any more versions of the same pieces”? What if they’re great performances?

    That no (new?) release sold more than 100 copies proves nothing. How many classical disks were actually sold, and in what categories?

    • Even if they are great performances, it would take a lot now to get me to buy something I already have in multiple versions. There are some exceptions: perhaps a Winterreise, or D. 960, or some Morton Feldman (I am a sort-of-completist for Feldman), but not much else.

      As for sales, it proves a lot. It proves that classical recordings – and this list includes soundtracks and crossover – aren’t selling much. It’s similar in the UK.

      • As I get better at listening, I find it’s worth getting different performances of some of my favorites, because now I can tell the difference. The sound of the Beethoven symphonies in my Mazur recordings is very different from the sound in the Hogwood or Gardiner (original instruments) recordings. Each allows me to hear different things.

  6. “Don’t need any more versions of the same pieces”? What if they’re great performances?

    That no (new?) release sold more than 100 copies proves nothing. How many classical disks were actually sold, and in what categories?

    • Even if they are great performances, it would take a lot now to get me to buy something I already have in multiple versions. There are some exceptions: perhaps a Winterreise, or D. 960, or some Morton Feldman (I am a sort-of-completist for Feldman), but not much else.

      As for sales, it proves a lot. It proves that classical recordings – and this list includes soundtracks and crossover – aren’t selling much. It’s similar in the UK.

      • As I get better at listening, I find it’s worth getting different performances of some of my favorites, because now I can tell the difference. The sound of the Beethoven symphonies in my Mazur recordings is very different from the sound in the Hogwood or Gardiner (original instruments) recordings. Each allows me to hear different things.

  7. I’m not shocked at low classical CD sales. A violist in the family recently graduated from Oberlin and had access to the entire recorded canon in the college library and doesn’t have a CD library, that’s just the generational new normal.

    I would be more interested to hear about classical *listening* stats, which would probably convey a clearer picture of where things are at.

    • I tried Spotify for a while, found it way too frustrating for Classical.

      The metadata mess in iTunes strongly discourages me from trying Apple Music for classical.

      But I should note that my tastes are a bit unusual, I focus mostly on music before 1830.

      With my new car, I have 3 months of Sirius XM. There are exactly 2 channels, one vocal (which I don’t care for) and the other symphonic/instrumental. Meh. It’s not worth the money, particularly if I don’t like what’s on the one instrumental channel, there’s no alternative. We have more variety in classical music on the FM dial in Northern VA…

      • Of course, but I have thousands of CDs, with multiple versions of most of the works I like. Which is why I really don’t need any more. (Because you have to draw the line at some point.)

  8. I’m not shocked at low classical CD sales. A violist in the family recently graduated from Oberlin and had access to the entire recorded canon in the college library and doesn’t have a CD library, that’s just the generational new normal.

    I would be more interested to hear about classical *listening* stats, which would probably convey a clearer picture of where things are at.

    • I tried Spotify for a while, found it way too frustrating for Classical.

      The metadata mess in iTunes strongly discourages me from trying Apple Music for classical.

      But I should note that my tastes are a bit unusual, I focus mostly on music before 1830.

      With my new car, I have 3 months of Sirius XM. There are exactly 2 channels, one vocal (which I don’t care for) and the other symphonic/instrumental. Meh. It’s not worth the money, particularly if I don’t like what’s on the one instrumental channel, there’s no alternative. We have more variety in classical music on the FM dial in Northern VA…

      • Of course, but I have thousands of CDs, with multiple versions of most of the works I like. Which is why I really don’t need any more. (Because you have to draw the line at some point.)

  9. It seems definite that the popularity of classical music is waning and would take a better brain than mine to figure out why. I grew up in the age of celebrity conductors like Karajan and Bernstein, when every major city aspired to have a world class orchestra. For reasons I do not understand it is not the same today. iTunes treats classical music with the contempt of disregard — the lack of good meta data and liner notes being an indication of how irrelevant classical music is in commercial terms. And iTunes is not alone in those failings.

    But would I want to stick with performances only from the age of the celebrity conductors? I think not. There are performances today which provide new insights and reflect the culture we live in now, rather than then. In my mind I treat each CD / Download as a one-time ticket to a new performance experience. The fact I have a copy afterwards is a bonus. Try buying a live performance ticket for the price of the CD.

    Good sites in my experience include: Presto Classical, Qobuz and Hyperion (for their own label) as well as numerous specialty sites like 2L and Sound Liaison. I can usually find the texts and historical / critical material of liner notes by searching online.

    The creativity of classical performers goes on — leading to new, refreshing performances, new sounds, new insights, new experiences, new composers (ancient and modern) being brought to light. You might love Schubert or Haydn, but who would have listened to, say, Padre Soler before Marie-Luise Hinrichs made her ground-breaking recordings?

    • At least half my new-recording purchases are SACDs, partly because I’ve been an ambiphile (since 1970) and want to support the format, and partly because finding used copies can be next-to-impossible. (You don’t know the trouble I’ve gone through to find SACDs of recordings issued in dual format and the SACD wasn’t repressed.)

      Until recently, one of the major mail-order labels had lots of cut-out classical SACDs at low prices. I bought recordings I wouldn’t otherwise have bought, and discovered a great deal of compelling music.

  10. It seems definite that the popularity of classical music is waning and would take a better brain than mine to figure out why. I grew up in the age of celebrity conductors like Karajan and Bernstein, when every major city aspired to have a world class orchestra. For reasons I do not understand it is not the same today. iTunes treats classical music with the contempt of disregard — the lack of good meta data and liner notes being an indication of how irrelevant classical music is in commercial terms. And iTunes is not alone in those failings.

    But would I want to stick with performances only from the age of the celebrity conductors? I think not. There are performances today which provide new insights and reflect the culture we live in now, rather than then. In my mind I treat each CD / Download as a one-time ticket to a new performance experience. The fact I have a copy afterwards is a bonus. Try buying a live performance ticket for the price of the CD.

    Good sites in my experience include: Presto Classical, Qobuz and Hyperion (for their own label) as well as numerous specialty sites like 2L and Sound Liaison. I can usually find the texts and historical / critical material of liner notes by searching online.

    The creativity of classical performers goes on — leading to new, refreshing performances, new sounds, new insights, new experiences, new composers (ancient and modern) being brought to light. You might love Schubert or Haydn, but who would have listened to, say, Padre Soler before Marie-Luise Hinrichs made her ground-breaking recordings?

    • At least half my new-recording purchases are SACDs, partly because I’ve been an ambiphile (since 1970) and want to support the format, and partly because finding used copies can be next-to-impossible. (You don’t know the trouble I’ve gone through to find SACDs of recordings issued in dual format and the SACD wasn’t repressed.)

      Until recently, one of the major mail-order labels had lots of cut-out classical SACDs at low prices. I bought recordings I wouldn’t otherwise have bought, and discovered a great deal of compelling music.

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