How much money is involved with respect to early recordings of classical music?
A decade or so back, E.M.I. put together a hundred or so CDs under the
title "Great Recordings of the Century," as it had done for LPs. It should
have been called "Great Recordings of the HALF-century," as it was almost
entirely made up of stereo recordings. One was a Karajan recording (maybe
Missa Solemnis from 1945) and one genuinely historical (something with
Cortot, Thibaud, and Casals, iirc). And from time to time the "majors"
reissue single historical albums, with one or more CDs. My perception is
that these rediscoveries do not stay in the catalogs very long.
Also, the small labels reissue the very same works. Naxos was sued for
issuing the Casals Bach solo suites, even though Casals recorded them in
Europe! It was Capitol that brought the suit. For a while, Capitol (which
owns Angel) got permission from E.M.I. to reissue some (how many?)
historical H.M.V.s The Angel agreement with E.M.I. did not last very long.
These exchanges have a complex history. Several of you know this history
much better than I do.
I ask, how much profit E.M.I. made off of the Karajan and
Cortot-Thibaud-Casals. I presume that these two were thought by E.M.I. to
bring in more profits than those "Great Recordings of the (FIRST HALF)
Century." My pure conjecture: these two sold fewer than a hundred copies,
for a profit of $1.00 × 2 = $2.00. This is E.M.I.'s net profit, although
there are further profits down the line for wholesalers and retailers.
What is the value of a *perpetual* profit stream of $1.00? An economist
(I'm one.) would say that it is $1.00/0.03, where 0.03 is the long term
real (no inflation) interest rate. This is $33.33.
E.M.I. has a large vault of old recordings. There's something like 5,000
in the DB series, and maybe twice that many in all their series of
The profits will decline from Karajan and C-T-C. How fast I can only
conjecture. But it seems to me that the fall off will be pretty stiff and
that the sum for all 10,000 HMVs won't exceed $1 million.
Multiply by 10 to get historic classical music from all labels.
It is quite true that digital downloads can be pretty cheap to prepare and
no inventory is necessary.
At any rate, I think our efforts should give more emphasis of finding a
hecto-millionaire (a centi-millionaire is worth $10,000.) philanthropist
than in persuading politicians, who pay far more attention to lobbyists
than to the public.