Can we believe classical metadata?

Can we believe classical metadata?


norman lebrecht

June 29, 2019

Streaming is the fastest-growing part of a shrinking classical market.

But what does it mean? And can we believe the numbers?

A disturbing analysis in the FT:

….there’s a crucial detail left out in all the talk of a streaming revival: how classical music has been left out in the cold, seemingly destined to gently recede further and further into relative irrelevancy.

new report by Midia Research out Thursday, commissioned by IDAGIO — a classical music streaming service, no less — underlines some of the issues facing the music of Mozart and Mahler in the streaming age. In 2018, classical music recorded revenues grew just 2.1 per cent versus 15 per cent for the wider market. Overall it accounts for just 1.5 per cent of the global streaming market.

Canvassing the report, classical music’s issues seem to stem from two, intertwined forces: format and metadata….

Read on here.



  • MJ says:

    To be taken with a grain of salt? It’s in Idagio’s interest to argue against the likes of Spotify and to highlight their use of metadata and sound quality as superior, it’s their usp after all. More independent studies would be welcome on the matter. With regards to actual access to the classical music catalogue, don’t we have ‘more’ access today through Spotify etc than ever before? Through my Hifi system (No HiFi’s are not dead either) I stream about 50% from Spotify, mostly Classical.

  • Dirk Herman says:

    At this moment my recordplayer playing Concerti Grossi from Corelli.
    Never streaming 1 second of music.

  • anon says:

    Judging from the readership of SD, who celebrate every issuance of every monstrous 100 CD set and who promise to rush out to buy it (no doubt at their local Tower Records), no wonder the industry is not investing in streaming in classical music

    But the real “problem” is free content offered by every opera house and orchestra in the world to compete for the very few ears left (and willing to pay).

    But is it really a “problem” if the industry is in fact democratizing access to culture by making it free?

    Another way to look at it is that culture is already paid for by taxes, so of course it should be free, accessible to everyone.

    Let the wealthy private collectors collect their CDs, let streaming be provided by state paid for orchestras and opera houses.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Not only format and metadata, sadly, but lack of: time, energy, curiosity, understanding, ability to focus for longer than 3 minutes and so on. Let’s add ignorance and fate is sealed.

    • David Rohde says:

      Yeah, “kids today,” am I right?

      This no-attention-span canard comes up time and time again and forms a prominent part of schoolmarmy, finger-wagging comments like this one that never solve any of classical music’s problems. Have you ever attended a 2 1/2 hour Broadway (or presumably West End) show that appeals largely to a younger demographic and where you can feel the rapt attention? Frankly in a lot of ways I enjoy the audience experience in musical theater a lot more than the classical concert experience with the endless coughing (very little of it based on biological need), dirty looks on slight, imagined faux pas, pointless mid-concert standing ovations to show the audience member’s own imagined virtue (when they’re really reacting to how fast and loud the music is, or ends), and so on.

      While classical music was looking the other way, streaming happened and pop music in all its sub-genres won the metadata formatting stakes. The question is what everyone’s going to do about that now. Frankly, just going by YouTube comment threads under instrumental classical videos, I *love* it when somebody comes on and says they like that “song.” It means that somebody new has come to the music despite all the ways that society has failed to introduce them to classical music otherwise. I only hope that the inevitable 10 response comments lecturing the person – mostly from people who don’t even realize that “song” now also basically means any unit of digital music – don’t drive the person away forever.

      The research report that Norman linked does look interesting and constructive, although it seems to spin the results a little too positively based on aggregating all of “classical” together in a way it doesn’t for jazz / country / rock and all of those genres’ sub-genres as well. (What, no separate category for minimalism?) Perhaps if people accepted the emergence and ultimately dominance of streaming, the problems raised here, including with metadata, can be ultimately addressed in a way that actually boosts classical exposure and engagement by new listeners. Imagine that.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Sigh…why does anyone have to “accept the dominance of streaming?”

        The evidence is that streaming is growing less quickly for classical than other genres. And that physical sales of classical music (mainly CDs) is not declining in the way physical sales are for other genres.

        Who knows what will happen in the future. I would guess that physical sales will remain reasonably important for longer than many people like you anticipate. There are many good reasons why a significant proportion of listeners want to continue to buy a physical version of the music.

        • David Rohde says:

          I myself still buy a CD from time to time if I have a particular reason to do so. I’m also not going to give up my collection of CDs in any genre (or LPs or cassette tapes). My comment was not about anyone’s individual preference. It was about the broad implications of the streaming revolution, the mistaken assumptions that the change in technology unfortunately reinforces, and the consequences of classical music’s initial slowness in adapting to the technology and influencing its direction. Thanks.

  • Shorvon says:

    If we are to spend research funding on music’s impact, better this than guildhall’s hot air study. At least this an empirical angle may lend real insight into consumer behaviours and allow us to question assumptions and suppositions of classical music receptivity.

  • Jean says:

    These platforms have been totally created with the logic of two elements: “artist – song”. To add a third element, composer, already messes everything up…

  • Augustine says:

    I subscribed to IDAGIO for 9 months and appreciated their effort to offer a streaming service that understands the classical genre metadata. Composers are not Artists, Movements are not Songs, Op numbers matter, etc…

    Unfortunately, their service had too many technical glitches with intermittent dropouts and such and I went back to Spotify Premium with their excellent Spotify Connect App.

    I don’t hold much hope for Spotify, Apple music, and the other major streaming services to address the unique metadata demands of the classical genre. Nor do I hold much hope for services such as IDAGIO to implement DLNA apps such as Spotify Connect.

    Those of us who spend time listening to classical music via streaming services will continue to muddle through the search process.

    Having said that, there is no doubt in my mind that streaming music is the “future”. The 10,000 CD/LP record collections will become relics of the past.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    That cat is listening to DePussy? I think we need to be told.

  • Every one of these streaming outfits should hire Philippe Watel – the absolute authority on designing classical music metadata schemas that work for the consumer and creator of MusiChi – to fix this mess.

  • Bryan wilson says:

    I use and am very happy with Primephonic. I buy cd’s still but miss good sleeve notes. They only seem to be any good in deluxe editions now.