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.
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…