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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 5 February 2008


by Graham Lord and Wah Keung Chan / February 12, 2008

Profits in the Classical Music Recording Industry

Two recent announcements from the recording industry show that there are still profits to be made in classical music. According to the company’s press release, ArkivMusic’s 2007 year ended with a 30% increase in revenues year-over-year. Operating exclusively online, ArkivMusic’s advantage is its “endless shelf” of available classical CD inventory. The company is an example of The Long Tail theory, wherein companies profit by selling less of more. Classical aficionados can access the largest number of classical recordings available anywhere in the world – over 82,000 titles – including nearly 5,000 formerly out-of-print titles produced “on demand” as ArkivCDs. “The ArkivCD program made up about 10% of our overall business in the fourth quarter,” continued Feidner. “That’s a significant percentage for what is essentially a new line of products. We launched this initiative late in 2006, and we continue to reissue hundreds of releases each month as we expand the catalog of formerly deleted titles.”

Naxos founder Klaus Heymann recently revealed in an interview with Stereophile that the company was profitable, especially with their digital strategy, “When I started, all I was trying to do was sell a CD at the price of an LP… I never imagined we’d become a powerhouse, with 300 employees worldwide, and 60 programmers and systems analysts in our Information Technology department. We’re the only record company in the world with our own digital platforms. We have our own download and streaming sites, handle digital distribution for some of the labels we distribute physically, and also have books, audio books, and educational materials. For me, being in classical music has always been a lifestyle decision. For years, we didn’t make any money. I’ve invested an enormous amount of money – $80 million US – in the entire catalog and range of products, and never had a normal return until, thanks to the advent of digital platforms, I made a decent return last year. I’m extremely happy. I’m doing what I love, and I’ll finally make some money from it.” The moral of the story is that there are always winners and losers in any industry. While the major labels and retailers were downsizing, specialized companies have been able turn a profit.

Barenboim Takes Palestinian Citizenship

January saw Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim take yet another bold step in the name of coexistence in the troubled Middle East: he now holds honorary citizenship in Palestine. A frequent critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Barenboim has often gone on record for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in the region. “I believe that the destinies of …the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably linked,” he said. Born in Argentina to Russian Ashkenazi Jewish parents, Barenboim has often been at the centre of controversy with regard to Israeli-Palestinian relations. This past December, he cancelled a concert scheduled in the Gaza Strip in protest, because one of the members of his ensemble, a Palestinian, was stopped at the border and told he needed individual permission to enter the region (even though the group had already been granted authorization to perform in Gaza by Israeli officials). In 2001, he once again ignited controversy in Israel by performing the music of Richard Wagner, which has traditionally been a taboo in the Jewish state due to Wagner’s noted anti-Semitism. Barenboim claims the idea came from an interruption during a press conference he was holding: a cell phone went off, to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries (from Wagner’s epic opera, Die Walküre), “I thought if it can be heard on the ring of a telephone, why can’t it be played in a concert hall?” Barenboim is currently Principal Guest Conductor of La Scala in Milan (in the absence of a music director) and the director of the Berlin State Opera.

Violist Lambert Chen Wins 2nd Annual Golden Violin, $20,000 scholarship

Montreal-based violist and doctoral candidate Lambert Chen has been awarded a $20,000 scholarship as well as the honour of having his name on a prestigious trophy, the Golden Violin, that some have dubbed the “Stanley Cup of classical music”. Over a year ago, noted businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich bought the ornamental violin, made of pewter with gold leaf, and decided it would make the perfect trophy to award to top string players at McGill’s Schulich School of Music (renamed after his unprecedented $20-million gift to the faculty). The violin itself is very fragile, so Chen won’t be keeping it, though it regularly stays on display in the school’s library and will soon make a stopover at the Hockey Hall of Fame, where it will take its place next to the real Stanley Cup. “He’s really very talented and has the potential to win the major competitions in viola down the road,” said Don McLean, dean of the Schulich School, referring to Chen. “It is a question of acknowledging someone in the final year of their studies as a kind of career-launching recognition.” Schulich himself has credited his own success to a $1600 scholarship, which helped him to complete the MBA he received from McGill in 1965, before going on to become a remarkably successful mining magnate; this scholarship, claims Schulich, played a vital role in his becoming a notable philanthropist in the realm of Canadian universities. Last year, the inaugural Golden Violin was awarded to violinist Emmanuel Vukovich.

Example set by Met’s Live in HD

followed by other companies

Worldwide, the innovation of the last season was the Met Opera at the Movies series. Such was its success that other art forms and competition from other opera companies are poised to enter the marketplace:

• The National Ballet of Canada showed their sold-out December 22nd matinee performance of The Nutcracker at Cineplex theatres in Live HD.

• The San Francisco Opera will be showing six pre-recorded HD operas from March to November 2008 in a four-year agreement with The Bigger Picture, a subsidiary of Access Integrated Technologies, Inc.

• Britain’s Opus Arte, a leader in opera and ballet on DVD, in collaboration with Montreal’s DigiScreen (a Daniel Langlois company), has begun showing recorded and edited HD versions of operas and the San Francisco Ballet’s The Nutcracker in selected movie theatres across Canada, the US and Europe. In Canada, Empire Theatres picks up Nutcraker plus four independent cinemas in Montreal, Toronto, Waterloo and Vancouver.

• La Scala also got into the act with their six-opera HD broadcast season, which is available in North America, but only in the US. The series got underway in December 2007 with Aïda.

Showing operas at the cinema can be quite lucrative. The debut for the Met’s second season of Live in HD performances, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, reached 97,000 viewers and took in $1.65 million, according to the company’s blog. The question is whether the approach taken by San Francisco Opera and Opus Arte of presenting edited pre-recorded opera with a better picture quality can match this kind of turnout. The Met at the Movies has the advantage of being live and benefits from free PR from the associated buzz, so it’s going to take some serious marketing efforts to match them.

Application Deadlines for Competitions, Scholarships, and Grants

Looking for some extra cash? Is there a musical project you’ve always dreamed of completing but never had the funding to realize? Check out these websites for more information on upcoming competitions and grant programs that may interest you:

97th Prix d’Europe: March 1 (www.prixdeurope.ca)

Canadian International Organ Competition: February 15 • (www.ciocm.org)

Alcan/Équi Vox Montréal Scholarship: April 30 (www.equivox.org/montreal)

Canada Council for the Arts
Festival Programming/Travel Grants: Feb. 15

Individual Grants (classical): March 1

Individual Grants (non-classical): March 1

Aboriginal Peoples Music Program: March 1

New Music Program: March 15

Travel Grants to Professional Musicians: Anytime

Conseil des arts de Montréal


Project Grant: March 1

Operating Grant: March 1

Multi-year Grant (4-year cycle starts in ‘08): March 1

Festival or Major Event Grant: March 1

Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec


Artistic Research and Creation: April 1

Commissioned Works: April 1

Development: April 1

Studios/Apartments: April 1


Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons

By Seymour Schulich with Derek DeCloet

296 pages, Key Porter books, $29.95

Seymour Schulich’s recently released book, Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons, is a highly entertaining read full of valuable insights and tips, but a bit hard to classify. The Montreal-born self-made billionaire turned philanthropist recently endowed McGill’s music faculty with a transformative gift, and has now written, alongside Derek DeCloet, 49 short chapters of engaging stories of wisdom and experience.

Although Schulich briefly recounts the history of his business investments in oil and mining in the appendices of the book, Get Smarter is not a typical business memoir, nor is it simply a strategy manual for business, or even a life management guide. Rather, it’s like taking a drive with your favourite uncle and listening to him hold forth on the distilled wisdom he has acquired through a lifetime in business. Most of the chapters discuss financial practices and ideas, ranging from starting a business to venture capital to personal money management. Anyone with even a mild interest in the workings of money will find it engrossing.

Some sections of the book discuss what could loosely be described as “life management” topics. The first chapter presents an insightful mechanism for deciding on a particular course of action: assign numerical values to the pros and cons and pursue it only if the advantages more than double the sum of the disadvantages. The book also includes several surprises, such as a poem about relationships in the chapter called “Sex and Love” and an appendix listing Schulich’s ten favourite movies (no explanation given).

Schulich states his goals for his book and his major endowments to five different university faculties: first, to make a significant impact on the lives of individuals, and second, to be remembered. With Get Smarter, Schulich is on his way to imparting his hard-earned knowledge to the next generation. For his philanthropic projects, he also plans to have an atypically large effect not just on institutions, but also on the lives of the recipients. To succeed, he stipulates that 7 to 10 per cent of his endowments be paid out each year, compared to the standard 5 per cent, so that individual students get the same life-changing benefit that he himself received from a sizable grant in 1963.

As the benefactor of such dramatically effective philanthropic gifts, his name will not be forgotten soon, and with his book, Schulich has succeeded in memorably introducing himself to his public. In short, Get Smarter is both more personal and more useful than many books written by businessmen, and is the kind of book one can turn to again and again for inspiration, guidance, or simply entertainment. Christine Rogers

February Birthdays

Feb. 1, 1922 Renata Tebaldi (d. 2004)

Feb. 2, 1875 Fritz Kreisler (d. 1962)

Feb. 3, 1809 Felix Mendelssohn (d. 1847)

Feb. 4, 1912 Erich Leinsdorf (d. 1993)

Feb. 5, 1911 Jussi Björling (d. 1960)

Feb. 6, 1903 Claudio Arrau (d. 1991)

Feb. 7, 1878 Ossip Gabrilovich (d. 1936)

Feb. 8, 1932 John Towner Williams

Feb. 9, 1885 Alban Berg (d. 1935)

Feb. 10, 1927 Leontyne Price

Feb. 11, 1912 Rudolf Firkusny (d. 1994)

Feb. 12, 1923 Franco Zeffirelli

Feb. 13, 1873 Feodor Chaliapin (d. 1938)

Feb. 14, 1959 Renée Fleming

Feb. 15, 1947 John Adams

Feb. 16, 1938 John Corigliano

Feb. 17, 1653 Arcangelo Corelli (d. 1713)

Feb. 18, 1939 Marlos Nobre

Feb. 19, 1743 Luigi Boccherini (d. 1805)

Feb. 20, 1791 Carl Czerny (d. 1857)

Feb. 21, 1927 Pierre Mercure (d. 1966)

Feb. 22, 1817 Niels Gade (d. 1890)

Feb. 23, 1685 George Frideric Handel

Feb. 24, 1934 Renata Scotto

Feb. 25, 1873 Enrico Caruso (d. 1921)

Feb. 26, 1949 Emma Kirkby

Feb. 27, 1897 Marian Anderson (d. 1993)

Feb. 28, 1882 Geraldine Farrar (d. 1967)

Feb. 28, 1792 Gioachino Rossini (d. 1868)

Compiled by Susan Callaghan

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