Where in the US sells the most classical CDs? Texas.

Where in the US sells the most classical CDs? Texas.


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2014

Last week’s US top-selling classical album was the cellist Zuill Bailey’s release of Britten’s cello symphony.That fact is so striking on so many counts that we decided to do due diligence.

After all, Britten is not a best-seller even in England and Bailey is not his foremost interpreter by any length of chalk. However, 544 records sold in a week say he must be doing something right. And it is well known in the trade that Zuill Bailey carries stock and sells it after concerts.

Here’s the data our analysts came up with.


Volcano Concert


Over the last three weeks Zuill Bailey  sold 1,226 units in El Paso , TX out of 1,553 total units.


457 last week

449 week before

320 two weeks before


El Paso doesn’t rank in the top 100 outlets for classical on Soundscan.


Nobody else has that kind of success there.

Zuill Bailey is  Artistic Director of El Paso Pro-Musica (Texas). QED.We can prove that he sells more records than the music directors of the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra combined.


  • Jim Brinton says:

    It’s hard to avoid the impression that other orchestras and artists could improve sales by adopting his tactics. Many groups here in Boston, MA, offer their CDs for sale including Boston Baroque and the Handel and Haydn Society. The audience always buys, especially of the performances are top notch.

  • Brian says:

    Britten not a best seller? The Decca recording of the War Requiem sold over 200,000 sets when it was first released in 1963.

  • Karen says:

    We all bemoan the declining audience for and patronage of classical music but are slow to embrace those strategies that can help reverse that slide.

    I have personally heard Zuill Bailey in performance and have bumped into him in passing on a number of occasions. His practice of offering CDs for sale following a performance is quite the norm in smaller cities in the U.S. The audience has a fresh memory of artist’s performance and, if the performance was enjoyable, they are frequently interested in hearing more. If the artist is personable, engaging, and/or willing to provide autographs, so much the better.

    In this day and age, I find it difficult to understand how we can so easily dismiss this practice. Quite honestly, it smacks a bit of elitism, if not worse. This is especially deplorable at a time when we so desperately need fresh ears and audience members.

    • Janey says:

      @Karen You will find no argument from me on your main point. Still, I would caution against using loss of CD sales as a signal of the “declining audience” for classical music. If declining sales were truly a sign of declining interest, then pop and rock music also would face questions about its declining popularity as a genre. The difference between pop/rock and classical is that classical’s sales were lower to begin with so had a shorter distance to fall when CD sales began crashing years ago.

      • Karen says:

        My apologies – I did not intend to imply that slumping sales were indicative of a “declining audience” for classical music. One only needs to read about yet another orchestra disbanding or attend an orchestral concert to realize that the audience for classical music is not what it once was.

        It was certainly not my intention to imply that declining CD sales were indicative of declining interest – my point was actually the opposite. While overall CD sales have slumped, it appears to be a bright spot that certain sales appear to be “off the chart”, at least in relation to their peers.

        My point is that the techniques used to appeal to and win over a non-trivial market share, as Mr. Bailey has done, should not be so cavalierly dismissed. It would appear that he has (re-) discovered a (Forgotten? Overlooked?) constituency of classical music and has sought to invite them back into the fold.

        There are times when I truly wish we would bear in mind that music is a universal language belonging to all and is not simply an indication of education, privilege, or status. How many young aspiring talented artists have been turned off and/or turned away by our own dismissive, condescending attitudes?

      • Neville6000 says:

        Pop music is not declining in popularity, although rock music is

  • Richard Hallam says:

    Brian, 1963 was half a century ago, and was a time when a popular comedian (Dudley Moore) could perform a skit on national TV taking-off BB (to great affect) and the audience able to recognise the subject of that spoof. I can’t imagine Jimmy Carr taking-off say John Taverner or Luigi Nono and it really working too well.