Breaking news: Giant label rises from the ashes

Breaking news: Giant label rises from the ashes


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2011

Two years ago, I reported the death of Decca, one of the last major classical record labels. My column drew hysterical reactions from toadies of the music industry, prompting one of them to write a web article proclaiming that Norman Lebrecht was dead. 

Well, not quite.

What happened at Decca was that Chris Roberts, then head of classics and jazz at Universal, decided in a late act of spite to wind down the label and leave in in the hands of one executive and a receptionist. Roberts was fired last summer by the Universal chief operating officer, Max Hole. Costa Pilavachi, a former head of Decca, was brought back in a senior role, and the pair have been re-assessing the business top to bottom.
An announcement will be made in the next few days, I hear, that Decca is to be relaunched next month as Decca Classics, hinged to Universal Music UK and no longer governed from afar. Paul Moseley will remain as managing director of a reinforced team and new signings are on the cards.
This is a rare shaft of exceptionally good news for the classical music business, and an even rarer instance of a corporation admitting it made a really bad move and making swift amends.
It does not mean the rebirth of classical recording, but it does mean the decline will be managed in future with a good deal more sensitivity and commonsense.
Decca was declared dead by Universal (and not by me). It is now risen again.


  • Marie Lamb says:

    Excellent news! I noticed your choice of 78; the label says “Let The Party Go On!” To steal a Charles Ives song title, “So may it be!”

  • Jessica says:

    Mr Hole fired the boss?!? May I suggest adding him to the Academy of Appropriate Names, alongside Mr Diamond who runs Barclays, Mr Bean who is deputy head of the Bank of England, the journalist Mr Jonah Fisher who once reported from a Greenpeace anti-whaling vessel? And there were some doctors who…well, never mind.

  • David snyder says:

    I always love reading about spiteful and stupid bosses getting the sack. It is a reminder of the damage that can be done by one individual in a firm.

  • Matthew B. Tepper says:

    For a label which had ostensibly been “wiped off the map” by Valentine’s Day 2009, Decca had been uncommonly busy, issuing recordings, making new ones (the 2010 Neujahrskonzert, for example), and signing new artists (Andrea Scholl for one). Well, so long as Chris Roberts has been rusticated to the land of can’t-hurt-classical-music-any-more, I shan’t complain.

  • Marie Lamb says:

    Gramophone has more about it here:
    NL replies: Marie, what Gramophone has is an undigested press release. According to Gramophone, all was well with Decca, all is now well and all will ever be well…