Martone emphasizes the collaborative nature of label-artist relations. "There's the good and the bad part of this: we don't have a pop or a rock division that supports our classical and jazzwe are allowed to do what we do. That's the good part. The bad part is it's a hard thing to find a creative way to artistic fulfillment and turning a profit. The beauty of it is that we're all working as a team... We look at how much is it going to cost, how much do we think it can sell and we're very conservative about that. You have to be when record retail is in the state it's in." Interestingly, while artists once toured to foster record sales, today CD releases function primarily as merchandise to promote bookings, so artists and labels must cooperate for mutual survival. "We look at our artists as partners," says Wilpizeski. "It's not like, 'We're going to do the work, you go out there and play the concert.' They have to do more than that these days."
In spite of sagging sales, Telarc musicians enjoy artistic autonomy. "They always give me a full freedom on what I would like to do in the album making, with love and respect," writes Hiromi. "They really care for artists and I am very grateful to have that." Camilo is similarly satisfied: "I could be the producer of my own recordings and I could pick and choose whatever I wanted to do, mainly." Martone remains optimistic: "The business as we know doesn't resemble the business of five years ago, which wasn't the way the business was ten years ago. I have lived through four major downturns in the industry. How much further down can it go? Still, the question that I always like to ask is, 'In the face of this, now what? What can we create? Because even in all these challenges, there's still opportunity. You always have to look for the opportunity and never settle for less than excellence."