Breaking news: Universal cleans out classical stablemain
No connection to the Paris trial of its former bosses, Universal Music Group has finally moved today to get rid of its weapons of mass classical destruction.
Universal Classics and Jazz, a hybrid construction, is to be shaken down from the top. Its president, Chris Roberts, is expected to leave today ‘to pursue other interests’ (the official line goes) and the dumbing-down policies of the last 15 years are to be reversed.
They didn’t exactly cheer at Deutsche Grammophon HQ when the news of Roberts’ departure was announced at lunchtime, but the wave of satisfaction could be felt three countries away.
Roberts, imposing his lowbrow tastes on a high-class business, demolished Decca and meddled constantly in DG, appointing sucessive label chiefs and obsessively spying on them (as I recounted in The Life and Death of Classical Music). His crossover disasters cost the label a fortune and much of its hard-won credibility.
Market share soared as a result of his dumbing down but core customers deserted and the labels lost their allure. Lang Lang quit in disgust and other prestigious names are said to be on the brink of rupture.
Once Roberts departs – I write these words with trepidation since he’s a corporate animal who has repeatedly dodged the chop – reconstruction can begin. New appointments will follow in the next few days.
For Deutsche Grammophon, this is a Berlin Wall moment – a historic chance to reinvent itself as an entity of acknowledged integrity. It’s drinks all round at the yellow label tonight.