CLASSICAL RECORDINGS….R.I.P….Norman Lebrecht has a disturbing New Year’s prediction:

You may wish to jot this in your diaries and upbraid me with it in twelve months’ time but I am about to make the rock-solid prediction that the year 2004 will be the last for the classical record industry.

Hyperbole? It sounds like it, except that to my admittedly untrained ears he seems to make a pretty good case:

Major labels which, a decade ago, pumped out 120 new releases a year are now reduced to a trickle of two dozen…..The latest on the dump pile is the tenor Roberto Alagna, once trumpeted as the next Placido Domingo, now a victim of poor sales….It has been, said one vice-president, ‘a year from hell’….’I have just signed off the last opera we will ever record,’ said another….The lone exception is budget label Naxos, which plans 150 new releases in the coming year, plus 60 historical remasters. ‘We are no longer in the same industry as Decca and DG,’ laughs its founder, Klaus Heymann. Naxos apart, there is almost no activity left that is coherent enough to be described as ‘industry’.

24 releases a year outside of Naxos? Ouch. I had no idea the classical recording industry was in such dire straits. Are things really as bad as he says?