Exclusive: Final movement for Universal’s sweet Sinfini

Exclusive: Final movement for Universal’s sweet Sinfini


norman lebrecht

December 16, 2015

The classical music features site has told contributors it will cease commissioning new material from the end of this month. Past material will remain online, but we understand from sources within Universal that the site will migrate to Berlin in the New Year to become the English-language component of the Deutsch Grammophon site. The idea of an independent online classical magazine hosted by Universal quietly expired.

The brainchild of former Universal CEO Max Hole, Sinfini was intended to attract new classical consumers with a range of information, videos and reference material. The number of users, however, failed after five years to match company expectations while the costs proved ultimately unsustainable.

Sinfini’s finale will be greeted with delight and relief by Gramophone, which refused to accept its  advertisements, and by other classical magazines. But the loss of a classical editorial outlet will not add many readers to other sites. It merely diminishes the sector as a whole.


Declaration of interest: Norman Lebrecht contributed an Album of the Week to Sinfini from the time it opened.


  • Alvaro says:

    ‘independent online classical magazine hosted by Universal’ its an oxymoron if there ever was one.

    Kind of like “scientific studies about global warming….paid for by Exxon Mobil”: I wonder what could they possibly conclude? ….


  • Erich says:

    Makes one wonder what the ultimate fate of another Universal-funded online gossip(and often highly inaccurate gossip!) site might be…..

    • Olassus says:

      Slipped Disc is everything Gramophone should be or should have become — fast, informed, comprehensive, widely read, flexible and growing.

      This viewer, for one, hopes it is earning its founder a good living.

      • Ray Richardson says:

        Ah, so that’s why the headlines are so tabloid style!

        • Olassus says:

          No, because Gramophone was once a month, not once an hour.

          But SD can instantly fix itself or get slammed. Different format, medium, technology.

          As someone who has been reading Gramophone for 40 years, I would say it has never been free of bias or its own kind of hyperbole and sales-iness — and that was true even before the decline in the richness of its coverage.

          • erich says:

            ….but does one ever see anything really negative about Universal (which, God knows, would be appropriate?!)….

          • Olassus says:

            I’m not sure there’s any point in bashing UMG. It is what it is: a big fat conglomerate trying to make money in classical music and opera.

            But certain album covers and personnel moves have been criticized here. Unlike Sinfini and Gramophone, there is no sustained album review practice on SD. Maybe there could be. Otherwise how exactly would you get “negative about Universal”?

            With any media outlet you read, Erich, it is vital to “read around” what is offered and understand how the outlet is operating. SD is no exception.

      • Philip Amos says:

        Slipped Disc is a rapidly transient series of tweets, most of them about minor matters, and most of those mere gossip. It astonishes me that anyone would suggest it become what Gramophone should have been. Gramophone should have stayed as it was and had been for decades — a classical magazine for grown-ups. But it decided it had to emulate ClassicFM and BBC Magazine, and in short order lost half its readership. And the two models haven’t done so well, now have they. SD is like any of those three reductio ad absurdum, as far removed from the old Gramophone as it could possibly be. I don’t even know another classical blog so trivial and riddled with errors. There are many fine classical blogs out there, but I get the impression few readers of SD pay those any attention. This leads to the thought that SD is for the same sort of people who get their news from tweets rather than quality newspapers, journals, and radio news programmes. The value of SD, the reason I look at its headers on All-Top is that you can take a break and play Find the Screw-up of the Day. Sinfini, with all its self-interest, was simply another version of SD. And “independent”? That’s just risible.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Slipped Disc has 1.3 million readers a month, including the disgruntled Philip Amos. No other classical site comes close. If Mr Amos doesn’t like it, let him go elsewhere.

          • Paul Smith says:

            No it doesn’t, Norman. Show us the stats and we’ll believe you. But it’ll be very lucky to attract a tenth of that number.

          • norman lebrecht says:

            The stats are from Google Analytics. If you doubt my word, please leave the site.

          • Alvaro says:

            UNIQUE visitors norman? I think those numbers warrant a post with you showing the data. I am skeptic, but if you in fact have thst readership, buy a boat and sail into the sunset!

            (Now, readership does not mean your site has a viable business model. FB didnt start making a profit until after it had 700million users. Getting there, getting there 😉 )

          • Ray Richardson says:

            “If Mr. Amos doesn’t like it, let him go elsewhere” . Seems to be your stock reply when you read a comment you don’t like and that you can’t refute. What an attitude, unable to see that there’s a large grain of truth in most of such remarks which if taken on board could greatly improve the site, you tell the critics to go away and continue to play to the gallery.

  • Erich says:

    Now that really does sound like someone trying to teach another reader of Gramophone etc. for well over 40 years how to suck eggs!

  • J. says:

    Someone should give a job to our friend.

  • Jane Foster says:

    Mr Lebrecht refrains from pointing out in his lament for Sinfini that he was a paid contributor to the site for a weekly album review.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      If you wish me to declare that interest, I am happy to do so. I wrote an Album of the Week and made a few video interviews. All will, I think, remain onsite.

      • hyprocritesgalore says:

        It would have been nice to declare that up front but thanks for doing so deep in the comments section.

        • Olassus says:

          Gettalifehypocrite, the album reviews on Sinfini have been routinely referenced on Slipped Disc. So it’s not as if anything has been hidden. Where have you been?

  • Nicolas Jones says:

    The articles weren’t very good and CD reviews too often felt amateurish and halfhearted. And yet Sinfini glowed with (misplaced) self-satisfaction. No surprise it couldn’t survive.

  • Maxjk says:

    Mr Lebrecht has just told us that he has 1.5 million viewers a month. This, while sinfini is forced to shut down because of bad reception.

    Mr Lebrecht, there is no way you make 1.5 million a month.
    It is exactly these types of statements that are so misleading for representing classical music online.

    I think it is your duty in maintaining a respectable say, to show us your exact numbers, and to show actual results, not just clicks and page views.

    You are also part of a system which requires production at great cost, a cost that is frankly not there.
    This is not an entertainment industry where big bucks are made, where agencies come off with 1000s to spend. Such an industry does not exist. Our music world is a haven for mismanagement, for public funding in inadequate hands, for corruption and a good portion of vicious discontent often for those with real talent.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      It is 1.3 million, not 1.5. The stats are Google’s not mine. They are shared with our advertisers and investors.

      • Ray Richardson says:

        I assume it’s really views and not viewers? Suppose each viewer looks once a day on average, then that’s about 40,000 viewers (readers) per month which would seem possible world-wide. I certainly find 1.3million individual readers high, even world-wide. It would be very interesting to see what Radio Fours ‘ More or Less’ would come up with.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        Of course, if someone (like me) opens the Slipped Disc page 5 times in a day as I browse the site, and then glance at 5-10 articles, that means I now count as anything from 5 to 15-20 visits in a day, especially if I do so from 2 or more devices. Track unique visitors, and especially unique recurring visitors, and the tally will decrease significantly.

        But of course, accuracy and context…

        PS: I saved you the bother of disclosing my whole name. Hope you don’t mind.

        • Steve says:

          In regards to the traffic, it probably is either more like page views or if this site is part of a larger network of sites (I’m not sure?) – then that may be a quoted figure used by a sales team. Google analytics don’t “lie” but there are so many kpi (key performance indicator) configurations its tough to say. Axexa which even for free give you these stats:

          In any event, the more people the better for all classical music fans but if over a million people had interest in a site which focuses on a niche product, it doesn’t add up to what current sales are in major countries.

          • Ray Richardson says:

            And they (Alexa) show a global figure for no of Monthly unique visitors visiting Slipped Disc varying between about 70,000 and 78,000 for the month ending Dec 13th this year. They define Monthly Unique Visitors as “The estimated number of unique people that visited this site over the past 30 days”.

            Think this calls for another sensation-seeking headline

            “Exclusive, Breaking, Slipped Disc monthly visits 70,000 and not the 1.3 million claimed”!

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