[ENG.] BIS Records sells out to Apple. A further step in the break-up of the major independent classical labels.
One of the oldest independent labels of the digital recording era announces that it has sold out to Apple. Little more concrete information so far. A few initial thoughts.
Robert von Bahr, founder of BIS RECORDS announced on his website and social netwporks that, after 50 years of virtuous labor, he too, like Simon Perry for Hyperion who sold to Universal, is selling his catalog... to Apple. Both say they're very happy. And understandably so, if they've picked up a good cheque. It remains to be seen whether their resignation is not a bad move for the independent classical record industry.
It seems that the owners of classic independent labels of a certain size are finding themselves in a quandary when it comes to retirement. For the past 15 years, economic conditions have been increasingly appalling, making it very difficult for them to maintain a reasonable business, although in this case BIS has shown itself to be particularly skilful, more skilful than others, in maintaining a policy of quality and, at least on the surface, conviction.
Transferring the business "in the trade" by selling to another independent buyer would not result in a significant profit, as the independent buyer would inherit the same difficult operating conditions.
A takeover by family or internally-trained successors would not yield any cash.
So a takeover by a GAFAM or a Major is the solution: it's easier to make money.
The fact remains that, until further notice, neither Universal Music nor Apple have a reassuring profile in line with the particularities of working for an independent classical label. Universal Music theoretically does the same job with its classical department. But the Majors have demonstrated a thousand times over how stubborn and brutal they are with classical artists.
Apple recently launched Apple Music Classical, a kind of application offering a "little classical bath" in the "big bath" of Apple Music. The result isn't exactly fascinating
At this point, we're witnessing the decomposition of the glorious classical recording era of the 1980s to 2010.
Admittedly, this decomposition is due to the passing of the baton between tired people who want a generations' cheque and what could have been the future of their label; but the real reason is to be found in the lack of income over the last 15 years, in the ordeal of the noose that these labels have been put through. And guess who's picking up the pieces? Universal and Apple.
The inability of the independent classical record industry to reinvent itself at a time of digital distribution, its inability to decide to stand on its own two feet, conservatism, wait-and-see attitude... you get the result: harmonia mundi, Hyperion, BIS... and the rest is history.
There are other questions, of course, to which we shall return.
A few days ago BIS Records turned 50 years old and I am immensely proud of what our small team of people has accomplished during this half-century. BIS’s specialty, while paying our dues to the core repertoire, has been to nurture young classical artists and interesting living composers and to safeguard the musical treasure that we all represent long into the future. It is to that end that, after much careful consideration, and having just turned 80, I am excited to announce the rather momentous news that we have made the decision to become part of the Apple family.
We thought long and hard on how to maintain and build upon our prestigious history and looked for a partner who would further our mission, as well as an increased global platform to bring classical music to new audiences all over the world. Apple, with its own storied history of innovation and love of music, is the ideal home to usher in the next era of classical and has shown true commitment towards building a future in which classical music and technology work in harmony. It is my vision and my sincerest dream that we are all a part of this future.
There have been numerous moves of late by Apple to further support creativity within the classical space, not the least of which was the release of Apple Music Classical earlier this year. Apple and BIS also share a fundamental belief in the importance of preserving audio quality. As you are all aware, BIS has always been about exceptional sound quality, and Apple’s dedication to sound, as well as to Spatial Audio, is something I have followed with interest.
BIS will become part of Apple Music Classical and Platoon. As proud as I am of this milestone, I am even more proud of the fact that the entire personnel of BIS, including me, have been retained. We all look forward to a future, filled with new music and artists in golden sound from this increased force in classical music.
- Robert von Bahr, Founder, BIS Records
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