German takes charge at Decca

Dr Alexander Buhr becomes managing director of Decca Classics from today.

A rising star at Universal Music, he reinvented Mercury Classics as a successful crossover label with such artists as Miloš Karadaglić, Yundi, Tori Amos, Olafur Arnalds, Andreas Ottensamer and Mari and Hakon Samuelsen. He will now take control of both labels.

He succeeds Paul Moseley, who has been given a strategic role within Universal. He holds a PhD in Musicology from the University of Hamburg as well as an MBA (SMI Steinbeiss, SDA Bocconi, and Stern School of Business). He will report to Rebecca Allen, Decca Record Group’s Managing Director, who is riding high on Bocelli and Rieu sales.

Dr Buhr has been told to put the identity back into Decca. The brand has got fuzzy.

alex buhr

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  • MBA? Approved. The music business needs as many actual administrators as one can get, not just violinists with suits.

    Best of luck to Herr Buhr.

  • Asking someone with proven success in crossover to plug the ever-widening hole in the Titanic of classical music, and being appointed by someone who is riding high with Bocelli & Rieu?? It’s clear that Decca’s original identity has long since sailed away, and at this point it is simply irretrievable.

    • Very well said. Universal Music Group have no shame and actually can’t even imagine how such a press release would look and be perceived. By giving as arguments for naming this gentleman, they repeatedly say that he reinvented Mercury Classics as a “successful crossover label”. One can assume, based on how this non-musical group has “managed” their business in the past the following:
      1. This guy will make over Decca and will give assurances to all mainstream classical artists on the Decca roster that he will be looking out for them and no, Decca will maintain its integrity.
      2. Little by little, Mercury Classics will start to blur into Decca.
      3. Releases and recording projects will start to appear on the Decca label that would have previously been on Mercury Classics.
      4. Key star classical artists on the Decca label, such as Cecilia Bartoli and Joseph Calleja will record less and less and their back catalogue will receive less and less attention and interest.
      5. After about one year to eighteen months, an announcement will be made of the merger of Decca and Mercury Classics into one label, with a corresponding staff reduction.
      6. Shortly after, an announcement will be made that the new (and improved) decca or whatever they will call it, will now concentrate mostly on crossover projects, as Deutsche Gramophon is the main classical label for the group.
      7. Key artists will be tossed overboard.
      8. Within three to five years, Mr. Buhr will be dismissed and the story starts all over again.

      This scenario is not based on fiction, but on reality. Many here remember, that only ten or so years ago, Chris Roberts, the main suit at the time, had decided to shut Decca down entirely. After much outcry, and after Mr. Roberts was himself dismissed, Decca was taken off the chopping block.
      Now, with this appointment, it is more than obvious that Decca, as it has been for the past seven decades, will be slowly dismembered and dismantled, as was the original plan of the UMG management some years ago.
      People, read the writing on the wall and don’t be fooled by these people yet again.
      UMG is in a crisis. They have very few, if any, competent managers at the top, who are knowledgeable and have any sort of strategy going forward. Mr. Buhr has produced some recordings that sold more than a traditional classical recording. So, let’s repeat that recipe everywhere. The problem is, UMG has run out of rabbits to pull out of their hat and now has no intelligent person to turn to to ask where they should be heading.
      Most people have now moved on from these “labels” and most don’t even notice, or even care, what they are releasing or producing anymore.

  • The great days of labels like Decca were, when they knew their core business and acted according to the “stone-paper-scissor” principle. If you don’t get it, think about it…

    A great label has three things that secure(d) the success.

    1.) artistic and economic producers in house caring for the product.
    2.) artists, enabled to excel in the format by the above
    3.) customers who then took interest and bought the product.

    Today’s managements have no clue about all three. Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical, doesn’t matter.
    If you think all you need to know is accounting and marketing, then you lost. Too late probably.

    You can count beans as much as you want, you can even have a PhD in musicology and a MBA. Doesn’t mean anything, if you don’t know what your products is in the first place and do not know how to produce it either.

    Decca… men like John Culshaw made it great. He was a producer. He knew how to produce a good product. He was passionate about what he was doing. I try to speak in simple terms. But even that would not click with Decca’s current management most likely.

    The idiocy of the whole branch was to think you can just fire anyone who knows how to produce a great product, and then open Yellow Pages and call them only when needed.
    The competences needed to create great recordings are rare and have to be built over years in house. Idiots…

    • Your three points are reasonable, your conclusion “Today’s managements have no clue about all three” sweeping and inaccurate. DG is the only major label to have a permanent in-house producer much like Culshaw you mention. Decca has more than one recording producer on its staff. Both labels have “artists, enabled to excel in the format by the above”. Both labels appear to be selling at least some recordings.

      • With all due respect, I don’ think you can compare today’s DG “last Mohawk” with John Culshaw. Not going ad hominem, but what role are the producers given today in the majors? John Culshaw was given authority, executive power and freedom to create.
        That’s far from today’s corporate world, where the producers are nothing more than 1st class slaves anymore. Which is the main reason why the PRODUCTS the PRODUCERS PRODUCE are only in the exception that defeats the rule exceptional productions anymore.
        Also the business is full of self referential misconceptions of how it actually works, what is a good production, etc.
        It’s kind of hopeless. One doesn’t even now where to start with this mess.
        One way could be to enable the Culshaws of today.
        Find capable people. Give them at least partially executive power over the productions they know the best how to be successful. Let them create and provide as a company the framework for creativity, their freedom to create.
        An army of freelance slaves is good for producing cheaply, but if your product aspires to be exceptional art, you have chosen the wrong business model.
        This is an business trying to excel in art for fucks sake, not selling shoes.

  • This is musical chairs moving along once again, it will not help. How about customer support ??? Does DECCA have a Mail adress for inquities ? NO WAY !!!!!
    I wanted to buy the Bergonzi- The Verdi Tenor box with 17 CDs some time ago, 5 weeks prior to release nobody could provide Information on the content of the box. Carlo Bergonzi is not even listed as a DECCA artist on the Website.

    1. Start with the basis, providing service for the customers.
    2. How about re-releasing premium content, for ex. Leinsdorf (Mozart Figaro) or the Claudio Arrau Schumann box ??

    The current releases are light years away in terms of vision, artistic and technical quality.
    It is a matter of taste, in-house competence and insight, this is not provided by MBA degrees or fashionable cross-over Releases.

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