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Media and promotion of new music

Stefan Piendl, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for BMG

Experiences with Contemporary Music on CD


 Specific Conditions for Contemporary Music Recordings
 Example I: Deutscher Musikrat & WERGO: Edition “Zeitgenössische Musik”
 Example II: Deutscher Musikrat & RCA RED SEAL: Edition “Musik in
Deutschland 1950-2000”
 The clash between critics’ reviews and consumers’ tastes
 The Challenge for a Record Company today

Specific Conditions for Contemporary Music Recordings

 Contrast: Contemporary Music live in concert or on CD
 In concert Contemporary Music is accepted more, as e.g. the visual aspect aids
the understanding of complex musical structures and the audience are willing to
pay attention (once-only) to contemporary compositions during a concert
 At home on CD the vast majority of listeners find Contemporary Music often too
exhausting and difficult to listen to and they spend their money rather on favorite
and well-known classical pieces

 Record Companies rarely decide to produce recordings of Contemporary Music
 Promotional support by the media nearly nonexistent
 Sales are relatively low due to marginal acceptance by consumers
 Recording Costs (e.g. for copyrights) are relatively high in comparison to the
expected sales

 Support in the form of grants by e.g. state-aided cultural institutions or private
sponsors and foundations, enables the realization of Contemporary Music on CD

Example I: Edition “Zeitgenössische Musik”

 Collaboration of WERGO (Schott International) with Deutscher Musikrat e.V.
(German Music Council)
 The project is financially supported by German cultural state foundations
 The edition of Contemporary Music documents since 1986: the creative works of
present-day, young German composers (52 CDs have already been published)
 The extensive information in the booklet enables the consumer to deepen his
understanding of the music


 The CDs, which are all portrait recordings of one composer, give the young artists
(often for the first time) the opportunity to present their works to a wider audience
 Four composers per year, who are less than 40 years of age, are chosen by an
expert committee to record a CD for the edition
 Furthermore, they receive copyright royalties through their work as

Example II: Edition “Musik in Deutschland 1950-2000”

 “Music in Germany 1950-2000” is a collaboration of Deutscher Musikrat with RCA
 Financial support for the documentary available through funds from the commissioner
of the federal government for culture and media and the “Ernst von Siemens Music
 The collection documents, the development of contemporary music in Germany from
1950-2000 on 130 CDs, chosen by an expert committee (60 CDs have been released
since the start of the collection in 2000)
 Works from modern composers from both East and West Germany, are introduced
(until 1990), thereafter composers of the unified Germany are featured

 While the WERGO - collection follows certain contemporary music composers in their
work, the RCA RED SEAL - edition pursues a music-historical approach
 Six main areas of music are highlighted in the series:
Konzertmusik (symphonic music)
Elektronische Musik (electronic music)
Musiktheater (music for theatre)
Angewandte Musik (applied music)
Populäre Musik (popular repertoire)
 Each CD is available as a single CD and also as part of a themed box, in which one
of the above musical areas is presented
 RCA RED SEAL engaged in this project, because of
 Sales expectations
 Catalog development
 Image Development for the label


 However, even though the edition received much praise from critics including the
“ECHO Klassik”-Award 2000 for the “Best editorial effort”, the sales expected to be
achieved through universities, music schools and other educational institutions have
not reached a satisfactory level so far

Three best-selling releases from the edition

Symphonic Music 1990-2000 Music for Theatre Musiktage Donaueschingen
Kurtág, Henze, Rihm, Herchet, Winkler Berliner Ensemble & Deutsches Xenakis, Penderecki, Messiaen, Ligeti
Theater et al

Each of these releases sold on average 1.300 units in Germany

Contradictory Reception of Contemporary Music recordings

Modern music composers that are commercially successful (e.g. Philip Glass, Michael
Nyman or movie score composers) are rarely reviewed in a positive way by the critics…

… but, the productions praised by the media critics are seldom bought by the consumers!

Successful Contemporary Music Recordings

 Examples of recent releases by BMG CLASSICS in the field of contemporary music
 Works by Ludovico Einaudi (composer of music for piano and pianist
himself). Sold with 5 releases more than 160.000 units in U.K.


 Ensemble Modern plays arrangements of compositions from Frank Zappa.
Sold more than 14.000 units internationally

The Challenge for a Record Company today

 Companies need to gradually depart from a complete fixation on the performing artist
and place a growing focus on composers (e.g. Tan Dun and John Williams are as
composers contractually bound to SONY CLASSICAL as Thomas Adès is to EMI
 Recordings of contemporary composers, which promise commercial success, need
to be produced and promoted
 Artistically relevant compositions need to be discovered and the conditions for the
documentation and development of these through recordings need to be set
(possibly with the help of sponsors and state funding)