Last week, no classical music was sold in the USA

Last week, no classical music was sold in the USA


norman lebrecht

July 02, 2014

The weekly Nielsen numbers are in and they are even worse than usual.

The top-selling album, with 1,789 sales, is Casey Cresczendo of The Dear (sic) Hunter with a release called Amour and Attrition. It is described as a symphony – and may even be one (we have not yet received a copy) – but its USP is rock musician doing his thing. It’s not classical.

The next two items, selling 253 copies and 173 respectively, are singing nuns.

Below that, peanuts.

A statistician would say that last week, measured by the usual minimal criteria, no classical music was sold in the United States of America.



  • John Nemaric, Ph.D. says:

    I have opinions about how statistics measures anything or put another way, how stat techs do their math and sampling.

    The fact is that I bought at least two CDs during that period. One Noseda doing Smetana and the other one Gorecki’s symphony no. 3. One more of the last one!!!

    My guess is that I don’t count and to think I had the best of intentions. Oh well, better luck next time.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I don’t understand either what is meant by no classical music being sold.

      On June 25th I ordered two CDs from ArkivMusic. They were shipped the day after.

  • Alexander says:

    I’m not sure why Slipped Disc is always so scathing about “singing nuns”. Assuming that you are talking about the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, they are directed by a graduate of Shepherd School of Music who was formerly a member of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and she is perfectly aware that her nuns are not world-class singers, despite training for five hours a day. I would never bother to listen to them myself, but they are introducing a new sort of audience to Palestrina, which surely can only be a good thing.

  • eugene cantera says:

    I’m a music educator and have mixed feelings about this – whether it’s true or not.

    If true, oh well. The court of public consumption has spoken. I’m sure ‘classical’ music may at some point experience a resurgence, but if not…that’s ok too. Music is no less important to me or to the kids (and adults) that I teach at the Dallas School of Music. I prefer to play and hear jazz and rock but I am ‘classically’ trained and still enjoy learning about and listening to all genres of music. I personally think that we (traditional music teachers) perhaps put too much emphasis on the ‘classic’ repertoire and not enough emphasis on musical ‘concepts’…but that’s a story for another time.

    If this headline is false, (and I kind of think it may be just a semantics issue) I still think it’s a nice talking point about music, music’s future, and the importance of musical training FOR ALL demographics (not juts school aged kids who sing in choirs or play band & orchestral instruments).

    It’s interesting either way but I do not believe it’s signaling any sort of demise. In fact, interest in music and it’s benefits (which can best be obtained by learning and playing) have never enjoyed such a plethora of positive press. Our enrollment at DSM is steadily climbing and it covers all ages and interest in many genres including classical.

    My advice is to grab that old ax and get started – it’s never too late, it;s always fun, and the benefits are fantastic.

  • Pauline Lerner says:

    I’m not a statistician, but I’ve used statistics in my work for many years. I don’t think that a statistician would say that “no classical music was sold” in the USA. He or she would probably say something like “the amount of classical music sold in the U.S. last week was less than xxx or yyy % of the total” or “was negligible as defined in …” There is a big difference between zero and very little, at least to a statistician.

  • confused says:

    But I thought Yuja Wang’s fashion choices were going to save classical music??? Huh???

  • Christopher Stager says:

    What about the two I bought?

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    But how about the cds purchased at performances? That would be difficult to calculate. Many audience members enjoy meeting and greeting artists at concerts and having recordings personally signed.

  • Michael says:

    Via iTunes, I bought Shostakovich piano quintet on Onyx (Golan, Jansen, et al) and violinist Zhou Qian playing Dvorak on Naxos. Would that get counted?

  • Mike says:

    In order to measure classical music sales you need to have a grasp of what the classical music market is made up of. Looking at the Nielsen Numbers I would imagine that the wrong ‘classical music’ numbers are being counted.

    The genre ‘classical music’ has been systematically hijacked by anyone with a commercial interest in promoting anything that doesn’t easily fit into any other genre. It’s also an easy way to get something to the top of a chart without too much competition. Back in the days of their ‘classical charts’ consisted of everything but. It’s a marketing exercise that has persisted since.

    You have to remember to that these companies are run by people who have very little music knowledge to start with. Anyone remember I was once asked to wrote an article about a jazz musician. I suggest Keith Jarrett. The editor didn’t even know who he was.

    The true beauty of classical music is that it isn’t made or created to take place in a race to the top of a poll or a chart.

    This sort of hype perpetuates the myth that classical music is in it’s death throws. Well, if that’s what people choose to believe then so be it. But they are very much mistaken I believe. There are just measuring it against the wrong yardstick.