TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Orchestras Go Digital

Orchestras Go Digital

Anastasia Tsiolcas (
Sun, 26 Mar 2006 15:52:24 -0600

By Anastasia Tsioulcas

Already a leader in the digital marketing of classical music,
Universal Classics is guiding orchestras into the download age with
its new "DG Concerts" series, which rolls out March 28 on iTunes.

The first two orchestras to partner in the initiative are the New York
Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Both are teaming up
with Universal's Deutsche Grammophon label to issue four digital-only
albums per concert season, along with potentially one physical disc
per year, recorded at live concerts.

Each title carries a $9.99 suggested retail price for the full digital
album, although consumers also may download an individual piece or
movement from the concert. The iTunes store is the exclusive partner
for the launch, but Universal anticipates bringing other digital
stores onboard at a later date.

The L.A. Phil's initial iTunes packages offer some signature
programing of contemporary music from its current "Minimalist Jukebox"
series. The first two concerts, which were to be recorded March 24-26,
arrive at iTunes March 31.

The New York orchestra's first "DG Concert" includes Mozart's
Symphonies Nos. 39, 40 and 41, recorded live in February and conducted
by music director Lorin Maazel. It is due March 28 on iTunes.


Orchestral releases typically achieve relatively low sales
volumes. That, plus high recording costs and strict union regulations
have meant that most American and many European orchestras, even those
with the highest international profiles and reputations -- including
the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics -- have gone without
recording deals for years.

Chris Roberts, president of Universal Classics and Jazz International
and chairman of Universal Classics Group (U.S.), says that has been an
ongoing frustration. "We really wanted to find a way to work more
actively with orchestras," he says.

To make the performances available, the L.A. Phil worked out a new
performance agreement with the orchestra musicians. In New York, the
musicians revisited their fee structure, switching from a flat-fee
payment to a revenue-sharing agreement.

Universal will avoid recording costs by having the orchestras deliver
their own recordings, provided via partners such as radio

Roberts hopes to create similar opportunities for international
orchestras. The label group is in talks with several prominent
European ensembles and announcements about additional partnerships are
anticipated soon.

While the initial round of releases will be branded as "DG Concerts,"
Universal Classics says that some of the forthcoming partnerships will
be marketed in a "Decca Concerts" series, incorporating another of
Universal's prestigious imprints into the larger initiative.

Bogdan Roscic, managing director of Decca Music Group, sees the
initiative as "the chance to represent the rich everyday musical life
of cities like New York and Los Angeles, which have been going


Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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