Here is the text of my bylined article which was published in the Los Angeles Times for 12 October 1992, Calendar Section, C-3.


Price Hike on Classical Recordings Is a Bad Idea

By MATTHEW B. TEPPER

Rene Goiffon of harmonia mundi usa says there is a clear and present danger to the field of recorded classical music ("Low CD Cost Could Stamp Out Classics," Calendar, Sept. 21). He identifies this danger as prices that are "too low." His solution would be to raise these prices sharply.

In my opinion, this cure would be worse than the alleged disease.

Let us examine the consequences of Goiffon's argument in favor of a price increase. By putting a premium price on classical recordings, classical music would be ghettoized further into an elite category, and thus be removed even further from the public's perception of music available to it.

What is the music business, after all, if not a business which serves to sell music to the public in large numbers?

There is already a perception among many retailers outside of our country's large cities that classical music doesn't sell. In my travels I have seen many record stores with poor selections of classical recordings, shoved tightly in dimly lit back corners of shops manned by clerks unfamiliar with the music, and with the loud pop music of the moment blasting through the loudspeakers -- surely not a welcoming gesture to the classical buyer.

The drive towards increasing classical record revenue must begin here. It must also begin with the abandoning of the media's elitist attitude that only rock and pop can reflect the tastes and feelings of the people.

Our sorry state is mirrored in a commercial classical radio station that must run jarring rock music commercials in order to survive. This is culture?

The solution is not higher prices for the producers, but education for the public, with special emphasis on the young. The late Leonard Bernstein blazed the way with his famous "Young Person's Concerts" on CBS-TV. Could the Los Angeles Philharmonic's new music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, himself a young adult, do the same for new generations growing up in Los Angeles?

As the manager of a respected business, Mr. Goiffon is certainly entitled to pursue an honest profit for his efforts. However, raising the prices of classical music recordings would not serve to profit the field.

Goiffon's math examples seem to offer support for his views. He suggests, for example, that American consumers should pay $21 or more for a CD because this is the going price in Europe. What does that have to do with the price of discs in Burbank?

Should we pay twice as much for our gasoline because they do so in Europe, or five times as much for meat products to be in line with the Japanese?

The equilibrium of the American marketplace, along with the steadily increasing cost of living, have seen the retail price of a top-line CD (pop, classical, or whatever) nestle comfortably around $15. Why mess with the law of supply and demand?

A $20 price on classical CDs would not be the shot in the arm that Mr. Goiffon hopes it would be, but a death punch. We have many forms of entertainment competing for our leisure dollars, and even records must price competitively or lose out.

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Tepper holds a bachelor's degree and a master's in musicology and is a free-lance critic whose reviews have appeared in American Record Guide, Opera Quarterly and CD Review.

Copyright © 1992, 1995 by Matthew B. Tepper

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