When our enemies see the light

When our enemies see the light


norman lebrecht

December 21, 2017

Just in from Bob Shingleton’s On An Overgrown Path:

Whether we like it or not, Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog is an accurate measure of the pulse of the classical industry, because it receives the unqualified support of musicians, record labels and orchestras. At the time of writing sixteen of the twenty most recent Slipped Disc posts are about classical celebrities, while three of the others are updates on long-running celebrity-related scandals. Which means that using this measure classical music’s priority is 95% celebrities and their dalliances. There was not one story about the setting of the music; not one story is about the physical, virtual, or social environments in which the music is heard. 

But for once let’s not blame Norman. Slipped Disc’s readership is supposedly large, and these are the stories that the readers in the closed loop want, so these are the stories the classical industry is producing. Classical music’s core problem is its inability to see further than its own celebrity-fixated closed loop. 

This must be the first kind word Bob Shingleton has ever had to say about Slipped Disc and, while it is gratefully received in the spirit of the season, it would be remiss on our part not to indicate its statistical shortcomings.

These are the stats.

Slipped Disc is on course to reach 1.5 million readers this month.

Google Analytics tells us pretty much who and where they are.

36.9 percent are in the US, 21.1 percent in the UK, 7.29 percent in Germany, 4.23 percent in Canada, 3.02 percent in France and so on.

46% are female, 54% are male.

But the most striking statistic is this: 27.5% are aged 18-24; and 33.5% are between 25 and 34 years old.

That means 61 percent of Slipped Disc readers are below the age of 35.

That is hardly the ‘the incestuous closed loop at the centre of the classical music industry’ that Shingleton claims. It is a very different readership from the classical preset and one that is very engaged and interactive. What is more, it is growing not just from outside the classical music community but from beyond Facebook and the rest of social media.

These are new demographic horizons and we are excited to explore them. We wish On An Overgrown Path success in its own efforts to reach new readerships.




  • John Borstlap says:

    Good news for SD.

    To talk about ‘the music business’ is in itself a sign of serious decline: the classical music performance culture is NOT a business – the term suggests that it is about money making – but it is about art. That many people in the music world treat the art form as a commodity, indeed as a business to make money, is one of the most serious destructive trends possible since it not only tends to turn music into a commercial commodity, but stimulates performers, promotors, managers to put the ‘content of the product’ on the bottom of the priority list. The irony is, that in no REAL business the content of the product is neglected, since it is the core of the trade. Classical music is not here to make money, but it is an absolute good in itself, which COSTS money, which is an investment into a common good. That performers, concert hall staff, orchestral staff, etc. etc. need to be paid is the bottom line of keeping the art form on the rails; but turning priorities upside down and use the art form merely as a type of business, is destroying it. Norman has shown this destructive process extensively in his books, and SD is one of the protests against this trend.

    Even in the heartland of classical music, nowadays government officials are uninhibited in their intention to treat the art form as a commodity:


    Wild capitalism, deregulation, a political elite who sides not with the electorat but with business and big industry, all driven by market ideology which destroys the fabric of society, will want to destroy the islands of free and independent thought and civilization, of which culture including classical music is one of the most important.

    • Been Here Before says:

      You are right, but has it ever been different?

    • Marc Parella says:

      Not a business? You tell that to CAMI, ICM, Opus3, Yamaha, BMG, Juilliard…they are in business to make money.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Agencies are supposed to do many things that are very cumbersome and require too much expertise in specialized fields to be done by the performers themselves: handling of contracts, providing of information, creation of promotion material, the promotion itself, collecting, selecting and translating reviews, sorting-out diaries, follow-up of offers, creating and running a website, handling press contacts, discouraging composers from contacting performers, warning performers for composers, sorting-out tax problems (with international concert schedules quite a thing), organizing tours, advising and supporting the performer in his career choices, and in all other ways the two parties have agreed to collaborate. It is thus perfectly normal that agencies are paid for their work, and if the agency is a good one, they care about the music, and the performer, because these two components are the heart of the profession.

        Where both performer and agent merely use the music as a money maker, such careers seldom florish and such agencies dig their own grave in the long run. There are great differences between agencies as there are between performers and it is often quite hard for a genuine performer to find the right agent, but they are there, and I think a majority are decent, hardworking people. The amount of energy and time necessary for an agency to run well, is difficult to imagine for people who are not informed….. it is a mere prejudice that ‘all agencies and impresarios’ are money thieves and worse.

  • Clovis Marques says:

    Still: celebrities and their scandals are the bulk of the stuff. Which I like… But still… why not some more… MUSIC!?

  • Statsfreak says:

    Congratulations Norman. These age-demographic statistics are certainly encouraging, but I would have expected also some representation from Asia (reflecting the growing interest there) or does that make up largely the remaining ~27% ?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Yes, and no. Asian readers are overwhelmingly loyal to sites in their own language and China has restrictions on access to western websites. That said, we do have a growing element of readers in Korea, Japan, Vietnam and China, as well as plenty of exclusive stories from those countries.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I would be interested to discover my age, whether I am male or female, what my interests are (beyond Slipped Disc) and where I am from according to Google Analytics.

  • FS60103 says:

    Good that he’s able to recognise a simple reality. The classical music world I know and work in is bitchy, scurrilous, prone to sudden bursts of indignation and enthusiasm, fascinated by big names and personal anecdotes, and fuelled by continual, sometimes wildly inaccurate gossip. SD reflects that: it gets the stories out and that’s why it’s the only classical music blog that’s absolutely essential reading – as I’ve heard from orchestra managers, conductors soloists, record producers, orchestral players and critics (often in sentences that begin “I know Norman’s awful, but…”).

    And thank god for that honesty. Classical music is made by flawed, fascinating, lively, messy, difficult, sometimes brillant, sometimes stupid people – they’re not all saints and visionaries. If we want a world in which great artists are admired in open-mouthed rapture, every performance is wonderful, every new recording unprecedented, and music invariably ennobles and elevates, there’s an entire industry of press people and PRs who pump this stuff out daily, with bigger budgets and longer mailing lists than any lone blogger. And you might argue that this industry-wide “omerta” – this glossy, expensively-maintained image of a perfect world of sublime art, made by high-minded “great artists” – has gone some way towards enabling the situation we currently see at the New York Met, and elsewhere.

    I wouldn’t perhaps go that far – but didn’t someone once say that “news is what someone doesn’t want reported: everything else is PR”? Long live muckrakers, troublemakers, contrarians and stirrers: and long live independent blogs, whether they call themselves Slipped Disc or On a Overgrown Path (I’ve long thought of them as two sides of the same coin).

  • Robert Holmén says:

    How does is iPad sure of the age of the person using it?

    And why should it be telling anyone?

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    I like Shingleton’s essays and wish it were easier to leave comments. The restrictions to specific authentication sites is an impediment and probably deprives him of some readers who would like to participate. I suppose he has traded that against increased work to moderate it…

  • kaa12840 says:

    I am merely a classical music lover; a scientist by trade and eat my lunch at my desk while reading and on occasion writing something on SD. I don’t belong to any classical music closed loop (of course we professionals each have our own “mafia”) but
    I love the arguments (?bickering) that goes on and always learn something interesting. There are discussions here that border on the parodic, but that is one reason why I come to Slipped Disc. I go to the concerts of the celebrities covered, so am happy to learn about them. But I also find out who won what competition (of course the award given by their teachers, as is vigorously pointed out) so that when they come to NY, I am prepared with prior knowledge. So, here is to a long life for NL and Happy New year to all.

  • Thomasina says:

    Mr.Lebrecht can know that I am a woman and live in Canada but I don’t think he knows my age…

  • The Voice from America says:

    Speaking as a person who isn’t “of the industry” or “in the industry” but who loves classical music, I think several of the readers here have stumbled onto the reason for the popularity of this site that the traffic stats confirm: SlippedDisc is the classical music industry’s “People Magazine.”

    There’s a reason “People Magazine” is in the Top 10 circulation of all publications in America, with higher readership than Time, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Parents Magazine, Cosmopolitan and any number of other well-known titles.

    SlippedDisc has high readership because it’s because it’s about “people.” That’s a pretty fundamental aspect of the human experience to anyone except maybe a hermit or cloistered Holy Orders.

    Now … think of all of the print and electronic publications in the classical music field around the world — you know which ones they are. None of them have the kind of laser-focus on “people and personalities” that SlippedDisc does.

    … and there’s your answer.

    • John Borstlap says:


      But the number of readers does not, in itself, provide garantee of content quality, as the British tabloids amply demonstrate. It is just a very happy confluence of elements that keeps SD interestring.

      (And let us not forget the very interesting German magazine ‘Der Stürmische Beobachter’ which has only 3 readers but offers a wealth of cultural insights.)