A Record Label with Real Ideals

If you’ve read my book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor, you may recall some space given to the balance of power shift in the record business from label control to artist control.  Here’s a new record label that is committed to operating in the artist’s best interests.  .  .  .and it is set up as a non-profit entity. As Norman Lebrecht states below in his post from Arts Journal, “it sounds almost too good to be true.” There are some lofty goals set here. Let’s wish them success.

May 10, 2012 By Norman Lebrecht
We’ve been sent the first releases by Odradek, which describes itself as ‘the first non-profit, artist controlled classical label’. The artists are not widely known and the music is serious – from Schoenberg to Gubaidulina. But the quality is outstandingly high and the mission statement is nothing short of utopian:

Odradek Records is not just a new record label. Odradek Records is the first wedge of a larger project, proposing a new way to produce and enjoy classical music. We think that the current model undermines the true essence and significance of music. We think that a model centered on just a few big names, the great concert halls, a limited repertoire that is necessarily restricted by the bonds of popularity a model that makes its selection of new young performers from the anti-musical system of competitions, the success of which is often obtained through extravagant histrionics rather than the correctness or subtlety of interpretation and finally, a model that is subject to the exploitation of the marketplace, and which obliges the majority of musicians to pay enormous sums to record CDs, for which the profits then go largely to the record company, thus depriving many very worthy but not wealthy musicians from the possibility of recording is not only a model that is far from art, but is a model that even itself is in crisis. Ideally, music just as other primary goods, should not fall subject to the markets. We know that in a strict sense, this is utopian, but it is precisely this tension towards an unreachable utopia that guides our project.Odradek Records is a non-profit seeking label. Once production and distribution expenses are recuperated, all of our proceeds go directly to the artist.

Odradek Records selects its artists solely through the criterion of utmost quality of the recording and the interest of the proposed program. We don’t want to exclude, but rather include: we are not interested if you have won important competitions or not, neither if you have performed in important halls or signed with major labels. We are not interested in your age or where you come from. The only thing that interests us is whether you play your instrument to a very high and professional level. With us you can record Chopin, but you can also record: Berio, Scelsi, Copland, Carter, Webern, Schönberg, Ligeti, Kurtag, Ives, and many others.

John Anderson, the founder, explains: ‘I’ve started a non-profit record company – non-profit in the sense that net profits are paid 100% to artists after their projects recuperate. The structure of the company shares out label expenses equitably over the roster’s earnings. Artists are chosen anonymously based solely on a demo recording by a committee of myself and four others, who rotate year to year. We’re organizing festivals in four cities around Italy this July for our first six artists (24 concerts in all).’

It sounds almost too good to be true. All we can say so far, after hearing Pina Napolitano play Schoenberg’s complete piano works, is that it’s very good indeed – and very real. We wish Odradek every success.

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Ramon Ricker

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