How few records can a Met star sell?

How few records can a Met star sell?


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2015

The weekly list of US classical sales becomes ever more depressing.

Only Bocelli reached 1,000 CD and download sales on Nielsen Soundscan last week; the next best record failed to sell 400.

But the most shocking stat is that a new DG release by Piotr Beczala, the Polish tenor who has been wowing Met audiences in Iolanta, managed to sell just 120 items in a week. In the whole of the USA.

It looks like curtains for the record biz.



  • Halldor says:

    “It looks like curtains for the record biz”

    What, again?

  • Gene Gaudette says:

    If I were Uni’s Liz Sobol I would clean house – top to bottom. Sure, there are only a handful of “record retailers” left, but a number like that is simply embarrassing.

    I would, however, like to know what the actual iTunes and Amazon figures are.

  • John Kelly says:

    He’s a wonderful singer, I’ve heard him a couple of times. I think the problem is the monocle……………’s definitely not helping……………………

    • Pamela Peled says:

      There seems to be a problem with the marketing. Piotr Beczala is a wonderful tenor. Perhaps he really belongs on DVD where his acting ability, fine physique and attractive personality are in evidence in addition to his superb voice. As an avid listener to music, I must admit that I nowadays gravitate much more frequently towards the additional visual experience of DVD as opposed to the purely aural CD. I don’t know whose idea the monocle was. If it was P.B.’s idea, I hope he drops it soon!

  • Jon says:

    I’m subscribed to Spotify Premium and I listened to this album today, after I read the positive review in Sinfini. Probably I will listen to some of its tracks again.

    How does that count?

    I don’t think that CD sales are relevant any longer.

    If I had to choose between online streaming and actual CDs for the same price, I would still go for online streaming.

    And I’m sure I’m not the only consumer that has changed.

    • Joel V. says:

      If you like the album, I think you should buy it. This way the artist might actually get 1 or 2 euros/$ instead of 0.000001 cents.

      0.000001 cents is, of course, better than 0.00000.

  • john says:

    For rap music or hip hop, listening to MP3 compressed files on Spotify is perfectly fine.
    For classical music, specially vocal, this is a compromise. CD as a delivery medium is still way better than compressed files, it is as good as necessary. Higher resolution than 16 bit for the delivery medium (CD) is not necessary. Besides, you own the CD, Spotifiy only provides a “sharing” experience.
    Entire generations of young people are growing up listening through ear-buds, with no appreciation of the sonic experience of acoustical music. This kills any notion of sonic taste. What a loss !!!!!

  • John says:

    I’m sorry, but I didn’t even know about this album. Probably a sad effect of the death of record stores in my case. Tower Records in LA and a couple of smaller outfits earlier in my life were how I kept atop the new releases. Today, I keep my subscriptions to Fanfare and Gramophone, largely to do the same thing. I even use Amazon for that purpose. But you may be right, Norman.

    • Brian b says:

      I see on Amazon that Beczala’s disc, released in the States on the 17th, is #20 in its category. But Bryan Hymel’s new French CD, released her only 2 days ago is #2. Personally, rarely anymore do I buy vocal recital CDs packed with “usual suspects” arias. Hymel’s selection is much more adventuresome. I enjoyed Beczala’s work in Iolanta. But it was the Hymel disc I snapped up immediately.

  • JAMA11 says:

    You have to be kidding me with that picture. He is ASKING to be ignored (if not openly ridiculed) by modern audiences.

    • Lucy Harbin says:

      The photo makes no sense with this article. It is a publicity photograph he took for a previous album devoted to songs made famous by Richard Tauber, and, as such, he was styled to resemble Tauber, including the legendary tenor’s trademark monocle.

      For Beczala’s current CD, the cover is a smiling portrait of Beczala in an open-necked shirt before a pattern suggesting the flag of France.

  • marguerite foxon says:

    CD over the counter sales may be low, but does this really represent the sales picture? I lived in the US for 22 years and bought stacks of CDs, rarely from a record shop because there wasnt one in my city. I bought virtually all mine off Amazon. Many friends long ago stopped buying CDs and now their purchase through download from iTunes direct to ipod or laptop. How the industry is able to capture the true sales I have no idea. The fact that Bocelli sold so many tells you who his market is – largely older people who dont download music and those who buy it at supermarkets and Walmart where such CDs are stocked.

    • John Anderson says:

      Soundscan tracks Amazon and digital sales and even streaming. They estimate things a bit by saying 10 digital track sales from an album or 1,500 song streams from an album are equivalent to an album sale. Things really are actually pretty depressing… On the other hand it makes me feel pleased with our own results given the landscape.

  • Christy says:

    I read that these labels no longer pay for marketing or do any. Is this true? And if it is true – what is the point?

    I didn’t even know about this CD.

    • Joel V. says:

      Something like making an investment of a lifetime: 5 000 or 10 000 €/$ per album for earning 100 €/$ revenue from Spotify?
      That sounds smart.

  • baron z says:

    The “record industry” will survive as long as the artists have or can raise the money they have to pay the recording crew and/or label to release it. We have to pay our way. They are all vanity labels now, that is the dirty secret. The engineers are the only ones making money, and by creating the necessity for the bastards. I mean, pirates. Thieves.
    But, hey, I can sell at least 500 cds if I make one, I have that many friends and relatives. So, the numbers are false. They have to be. Not that we don’t have a problem. Thank you, all you downloading lazy bums. Just think, with each download you can tank someone’s careers and hopes and dreams, aspirations for a life in music.