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Naxos attacks ‘reckless and irresponsible’ US union

March 27, 2015 by norman lebrecht

7 comments.


In a swift response to AFM leader Ray Hair’s concerns about the classical label’s streaming deal with Pandora, the Naxos founder Klaus Heymann has circulated the following rebuttal:

naxos
Since its foundation more than 25 years ago the mission of Naxos has been to make classical music accessible and affordable. More than any other record company, Naxos has invested in music education and in recording a wider range of repertoire than any other company, major or independent. At the same time, Naxos has promoted many new and young artists and performing arts groups. Its catalogue of American classical music is second to none, built at substantial cost over time.

It is both absurd and offensive for AFM President Ray Hair to insinuate in his recent Billboard op-ed that Naxos was motivated by greed and profiteering in its recent deal with Pandora.  Writing these comments without any attempt to contact Naxos is irresponsible and reckless, and does not serve musicians well.

Naxos remains committed to its artists and is committed to ensuring that all amounts owed for plays on Pandora are reported and paid to them in a timely and concise manner.  This deal was done for the benefit of musicians worldwide.

The current US statutory licensing system for non-interactive digital transmissions does not serve artists, especially classical artists, well. While it allows Sound Exchange to withhold 50% on behalf of artists and musicians, it does not oblige Sound Exchange to actively​ search for and identify artists entitled to receive payments. Nor does it oblige Sound Exchange to provide the artists with meaningful reports.

Featured artist payments are accompanied by meaningless reports omitting composer names and work titles. Here is what a Senior Customer Service Agent told a Naxos artist who complained about the absence of work titles and composer names:  “We don’t actually pay royalties for composing, so that is nothing that gets reported to us.  Sound Exchange is not set up in the way you are explaining. The composer is just not something that [our licensees] are required to report. It’s just not something that Sound Exchange has control over.”

Actually, Sound Exchange does not even report work titles. Artists receive reports specifying simply “Allegro”, without the name of the work to which the Allegro belongs or the name of the composer. There are literally tens of thousands of “Allegros” in classical music.  Mistakes are not corrected. The same artist keeps receiving statements specifying:  “Allegro from String” (possibly referring to the Allegro from the Spring Concerto of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons), even though the mistake was pointed out to the Senior Customer Service Agent.

By concluding direct license agreements with partners such as Pandora, Naxos not only builds a stronger relationship with important discovery and promotional services, but it also ensures that the amounts owed to both Naxos and its artists are reported and ​actually ​paid​ accurately.​ Naxos will be able to identify and pay the hundreds of artists who have not been receiving any payments at all from Sound Exchange.

Rest assured, Naxos is committed to growing the classical-listening community through promotion, support, education and continued investment in recordings and platforms.  This is, and always has been a passion project for Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman of Naxos.  Naxos relies on and is intent on supporting the artist community every way it can.


Comments (7)

  1. T-arafanboy says:

    Thank goodness for labels like Naxos where it’s not ONLY the complete Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos, complete Mahler symphonies, Dvorak’s New World, Schubert’s unfinshed and boring pictures at an exhibition (the music not the pictures ).
    Love Naxos, provide an unparalleled service in the restoration and exploration of great neglected/forgotten works and composers, promotion of artists and of modern and contemporary composers and in the evolution of great music in general. Have made many wonderful discoveries through them.

  2. Andy says:

    Poking the Naxos bear is the dumbest thing the incredible shrinking AFM could have done.

    And yet, why am I not surprised?

    1. MWnyc says:

      Well, I’m a little bit surprised that it’s the AFM going after Naxos.

      That’s the sort of imprudent thing I’d expect from Alan Gordon at AGMA, who never seems to have enough targets.

  3. kevin mallon says:

    I have conducted over fifty recordings for Naxos. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to record both mainstream repertoire (Handel Water music, Rinaldo) alongside more obscure baroque and classical repertoire.

    Like it or not, Naxos has had the ability to keep ahead of the game- they had a streaming music library before this became commonplace.

    As one of their artists, I am ever impressed with the initiatives they come up with, which in turn keep the label alive and thence make it possible for more projects to come our way. Admittedly, there are not as many of such as at one time. Even so, I made three CDs for them last year.

    The American Federation of Musicians singling out Naxos is a bit strange. The music industry has changed so much—and it is inevitable that file sharing and now the streaming issue should come to the fore. Speaking as one of the artists the AFM represents, I have to say that I support the Pandora/ Naxos initiative, as I know it will lead to both more exposure and to further recordings.

    As I said, Naxos has been ahead of this curve. But what so the AFM?

    Personally, I sigh with disbelief when I see the unions who represent us, continually so far behind the current trends in music. We can no longer really rely on recording revenue to be a major part of our incomes, but I for one commend Naxos for continuing to find ways to innovate. I have never felt that this is the face of Corporate Big Brother. We should commend the label for finding ways of keeping alive and continuing to make recordings.

    If there is enough strong reaction to these comments by the AFM, maybe we could hope to find some innovation from them.

  4. Stephen Limbaugh says:

    I’m sorry, but if the artists don’t like the deal their label made with Pandora, then they shouldn’t have signed the contract with Naxos. I imagine very few had a _real_ entertainment attorney negotiate the terms.

    But seriously, this is an argument over nothing. Streaming services like Pandora or Spotify don’t pay jack. We are arguing over a fraction of a fraction of a cent per stream… and I highly doubt any single Naxos release is racking up the millions of streams it takes to make a few thousand bucks.

  5. kevin mallon says:

    I have conducted over fifty recordings for Naxos. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to record both mainstream repertoire (Handel Water music, Rinaldo) alongside more obscure baroque and classical repertoire. Like it or not, Naxos has had the ability to keep ahead of the game- they had a streaming music library before this became commonplace.

    As one of their artists, I am ever impressed with the initiatives they come up with, which in turn keep the label alive and thence make it possible for more projects to come our way. Admittedly, there are not as many of such as at one time. Even so, I made three CDs for them last year.

    The American Federation of Musicians singling out Naxos is a bit strange. The music industry has changed so much—and it is inevitable that file sharing and now the streaming issue should come to the fore. Speaking as one of the artists the AFM represents, I have to say that I support the Pandora/ Naxos initiative, as I know it will lead to both more exposure and to further recordings.

    As I said, Naxos has been ahead of this curve. But what so the AFM?

    Personally, I sigh with disbelief when I see the unions who represent us, continually so far behind the current trends in music. We can no longer really rely on recording revenue to be a major part of our incomes, but I for one commend Naxos for continuing to find ways to innovate. I have never felt that this is the face of Corporate Big Brother. We should commend the label for finding ways of keeping alive and continuing to make recordings.

    If there is enough strong reaction to these comments by the AFM, maybe we could hope to find some innovation from them.

  6. Still Listening After All these Years says:

    I have been an avid classical music enthusiast over decades, and have built an extensive LP and then CD library of several thousand disks over that time. I still prefer music on hard disk, although I also purchase downloads and sometimes listen to Pandora and Spotify. In the past few years, the vast bulk of my CD purchases have been of two kinds: re-release material (the big box sets featuring conductors/performers from the past or the great record labels of yesteryear), and obscure music that’s being released for the first time ever (or nearly so). Of the latter, Naxos is my favorite label by far because they make it easy for me to explore rare repertoire, they offer so many great new items each month, and their pricing is consumer-friendly. What’s more, the artists they record are of the same high caliber of the “megastars” — even if they aren’t as famous. All told, Naxos items represent at least 50% of my purchases. For this reason alone, I am very grateful for their efforts to find a way to keep classical recordings alive in a changing world of technology that has upended the business models of everyone involved in the trade.


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