Friday, February 06, 2009

'Purely classical' chart begins chez Gramophone

BBC news has a story that a new top record chart for 'purely' classical music (as opposed to Katherine Jenkins singing Leonard Cohen and calling it a 'sacred aria') is being launched in Gramophone's March edition and will be updated weekly on their website. (More from Tommy Pearson on the subject here.)

So how useful is this? Should they have done it years ago? Is this an industry that takes 40 years to cotton on to a good idea, in a magazine named after a machine that all but vanished 20 years ago? But now that it is on its way - with the late Richard Hickox doing well - is it actually of any positive value whatsoever? I am put in mind of the book trade, which is desperately skewed by several big, depressing factors that are usually nothing to do with quality but more about who is willing to spend money on what. (If I start telling you what these factors are, though - and how pernicious, how poisonous and how ought-to-be-illegal - someone will tell me to stop being a whingeing author. So you'll just have to take my word for it.)

In short: the discs that become 'bestsellers' are almost certainly going to be those on which the most money is spent in terms of promotion. Promotion means that the public will know something exists (nobody will buy anything if they don't know it's there). The CDs will then bowl on up the chart, and will sell more. Or are we classical aficionados more independent-minded than crossover and pop flock-followers? What do you think, folks?