Naxos Classical I: A Snapshot of the Changing the Face of Classical Music Marketing

C. Michael Bailey By

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Stopping short of declaring the groundbreaking Naxos Jazz label dead, let's for a moment turn our attention to the subsidiary that made the award-winning label famous to begin with, the Classical Music section
In 1997 Naxos International, the budget classical music label inaugurated its Jazz subsidiary with the release of six diverse recordings . During the intervening six years, the label released 65 critically well-received discs, all which have been reviewed within these pages. Now, it appears the Naxos Jazz Label is dormant. While retaining its place on the Naxos web site, its content has no changed in over a year and appears on permanent hiatus. The label has started the Naxos Jazz Legends sub-label, which specializes in original period transcriptions by the originators of jazz but that is a matter warranting its own article.

Stopping short of declaring the groundbreaking Naxos Jazz label dead, let's for a moment turn our attention to the subsidiary that made the award-winning label famous to begin with, the Classical Music section (specifically, as the label now has several subsidiaries and multiple distributorships). For perspective of where Naxos classical stands, the Naxos set of imprints currently numbers 13. Briefly, these imprints are:

  • Naxos Classical- This is the imprint that began it with the release of The Best of Naroque Music and now numbers in the thousands of releases. This section has expanded into a successful opera section as well as several different series, including "American Music and 18th Century Classics."

  • Naxos Historical- Made up of radio broadcasts and studio recordings that have been remastered and provide the best account of past performance and directing practices by very well known musicians.

  • Naxos World- the Naxos World imprint is dedicated to disseminating music off of the beaten Western Tradition path, focusing on divers musical heritages, modern popular music from other countries, and obscure musical traditions not often studied commercially.

  • Marco Polo- Marco Polo can be considered the full-priced counterpart of Naxos classical. Originally inaugurated to record little known compositions by well-know composers, the label has expanded into providing complete sets of music, for instance of Johann and Josef Strauss.

  • Jazz Legends- Jazz Legends is the Jazz equivalent of Naxos Historical except concentration on Jazz. Many are original releases of radio transcriptions as well as studio recordings, the label represents everyone from Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith to harry James and Stan Kenton.

  • Nostalgia- Naxos Nostalgia provides and impressive line-up of artists from the world of popular entertainment from the early part of the twentieth century. Following the lead of Naxos Historical, Naxos Nostalgia opens the door the popular music of the twentieth century.

  • Audio Books- Not musical at all, Naxos offers the most complete library of literary classics narrated and recorded for release on compact disc. Among the titles are Boswell's Life of Johnson and Cleland's Fanny Hill.

  • Naxos DVD- an audio-video tour of Europe seen through the lens of the music From Back to Strauss to Rachmaninov.

  • Naxos DVD Audio? Naxos concert audio video testaments.

  • Naxos Jazz- After releasing 60 plus recordings of all manner of Jazz, this imprint went to sleep just prior to releasing the second recording of the very well received Lenni-Kalle Tiapale Trio. Let's hope this is not the last we hear from this label.

  • Naxos Hoerbuecher- Naxos Books in German.

  • Amadis- Naxos Classical's budget subsidiary (a budget label's budget label).

  • White Cloud- Naxos' foray into New Age and Space Music.


    Last year, 2002, Naxos Records celebrated its 15th Anniversary. In those early days of the label, Klaus Heymann, CEO of Naxos Records, was interested in two things: (1) building a large catalog of a diverse selection of "Classical" music for (2) a reasonable price. In an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Heymann stated, "Our Business model is simple?You record things people want to buy. And you produce it, market it, distribute it, and sell it, all at a cost that lets you make a profit."

    Mr. Heymann, European educated (Frankfurt University, The Sorbonne, King?s College) avoids big-named artists and orchestra, the majority of whom are under contract with the major labels. Instead, he opts for orchestras of a more regional than international reputation such as the National Symphony Orchestra of ireland, the Queensland Orchestra, and the exquisite period-instrument group, The Scholars Baroque Ensemble. The artists receive a flat-fee for their performances as opposed to royalties, instead, these artists can take advantage of the exposure they receive from the distribution Naxos provides them both in notoriety and music. This leads to these performers attaining worldwide credibility that can ultimately parlay into further funding or their artistic endeavors.

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