Labels in chaos as US classical distributor crashes

Labels in chaos as US classical distributor crashes


norman lebrecht

June 10, 2016

Allegro Media Group, based in Portland, Oregon, has sacked dozens of staff and is refusing to return calls or to send stock back to the labels.

Labels affected include Arte Nova, Avie, Challenge Classical, Stone Records, Music & Vision, Priory, Resonus Classics, Winter & Winter and more.

Hard times ahead.

hannigan de leeuw

UPDATE: A UK client tells us that Allegro is now in the hands of liquidators. The chance of anyone seeing money or CDs any time soon is slight.




  • David Osborne says:

    There are still classical record labels? Really? It’s over guys. Has been for some time now, not that I’m happy about it.

    • David Starobin/Bridge Records, Inc. says:

      It’s not over! A bunch of us are hanging tough and commited to the long haul. Please don’t confuse a distributor going down with the many labels who are as commited as ever to documenting the music of our time.

      • Sue says:

        Well, that’s a relief: when I read that first comment my heart stopped beating!!

      • Kyle says:

        Naxos is far and away the most significant distributor of classical music in the United States. It is my understanding that they have actively been trying to “steal” labels from the few remaining other distributors. I don’t think this is inherently good or bad, but it does make for a tough environment. Mr. Starobin’s label is a significant holdout, being distributed through Albany, I believe. Perhaps he would have and care to share some further insight into the struggles of U.S. distribution?

      • Gene Gaudette, Urlicht AudioVisual says:

        Bridge, Cedille, and my tiny rinky-dink label refuse to die. Period.

  • Ken J. says:

    I’m having trouble imagining that there were enough retail outlets for classical CDs to keep a distribution business going in the USA. There’s Amazon and ArkivMusic. There are Barnes & Noble stores with, what, 100 CDs tops in their classical selection? A few independent bookstores. A few surviving general-purpose indie CD stores like Dearborn Music or Waterloo Records which might have a classical bin.

    I’ve seen enough distributor failures to know that, for the labels, both the money and the discs are lost in a distributor bankruptcy. The labels are treated as unsecured creditors who go to the back of the line.

  • Nick says:

    Presumably the ever-growing Naxos’ American branch will pick up a few. Fascinating how a tiny Hong Kong company became the world leader by far in the classical recording and distribution industry whilst the majors were raking in their obscene profits and thought the cream would never stop. And it’s a label which embraces the contemporary as much as the standards, as witness its American composer series.

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    Vinyl too – that’s gone for ever 🙂

    • Sue says:

      Our local university conservatorium is “writing off” its CD and LP recordings in the music library because “there’s no call for them anymore; people download from the internet”. When I inquired about the artwork and notes which accompany CDs and provide valuable information about performers, instruments, composers, musicological issues etc. the reply was “there seem to be fewer and fewer music students engaged studying anything which calls for these things now; possibly a handful of postgraduates, but that doesn’t justify holding onto these resources”!!

      “What a brave new world that has such people in it” (‘The Tempest’).

  • S B Banerjee says:

    This month’s issue of Gramophone is about the return of classical on LP.

    I bought the following in the last two weeks: Max Richter Vivaldi, Max Richter Sleep and the Gorecki #3. My local stores have lots of new and used LPs as well as cds.

    Really love the little labels such Bridge and Avie. Stay strong

  • Gerald Martin says:

    I recently placed an order for a Decca box set with “Classical Music Superstore” through the Amazon website. When the package arrived I noticed that the return address was “Naxos of America” in Tennessee.

  • Laima Harmon says:

    As the Classical/avant-garde DJ and music director at WRUV, the radio voice of the University of Vermont, I can attest to what David Starobin of Bridge Records has commented. I am constantly amazed at the quality of new classical music being written and the smaller labels that provide this music continue to thrive. Kudos to Bridge Records, Albany, Innova, New Amsterdam, Parma Recordings, Microfest, indesens!, and the many, many other labels out there too numerous to list!

  • Frank Moten says:

    I run a small jazz label and many of us @ allegro took the same hit, fortunately we were able to get a new distributor in portland that could rescue our inventory. the label still lost all 2015 sales and appears not will be recovered. they worked very hard to get more inventory trying to string us along and succeeded for over a year.

  • Allegro Thieves says:

    Allegro Music screwed us and other musicians by selling our music in the form of bootleg CDs without any royalties ever paid to us. This was over a period of years. [redacted]