I read an article recently that reported that last year, the top selling new classical album sold 189 copies...in total. Hilary Hahn, a classical superstar (as far as I'm concerned), didn't even break 100 in 2014. Now, I'm not going to hop on the "classical music is dying and here are the stats" bandwagon which, quite frankly, annoys the hell out of both myself and most of my friends. Essentially, everything I have been interested in my whole life has been on the verge of extinction according to the media and, believe it of not, all of it is still around. Miracle of Miracles! Classical music, musical theatre, art, etc. will never get to the level of main stream as a Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars (if that's what the kids are listening to) and to worry and fret over that is honestly a waist of time. Of course, the classical music world wants to get more people involved but it surely is not dying by any means.
However, I will admit that there is a problem with classical music sales. I for one cannot remember the last time I actually BOUGHT a new album. I either buy used (80%) or download new stuff from my friends via the beauty of the Mac's AirDrop or Dropbox (20%). There is something ethically kind of off about five or six composers at a music festival sitting in a circle with their Macs open, sharing this and that for hours. However, I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy getting the John Adams Earbox (10 disc set) for free from across the composer powwow. Believe me, I would LOVE to purchase everything that's new on iTunes. This new recording of the New York Philharmonic doing the complete concertos and symphonies of Carl Nielsen is on point, but at $27.99 on iTunes (and $64.99 for a physical copy on Amazon), I just can't put that kind of money down. Call me cheap. Maybe new classical albums are like those Cambridge Companion Guides; very few people will buy it, but there is a niche market that will, so the price has to go up to meet some kind of supply and demand. (credit to my business professor father).
This last February, my Mac got stolen which, for any millennial composer, is probably the worst thing that can happen. Besides recovering all my works but also losing some very important documents etc etc... I lost all of my iTunes music. It made me realize very quickly how ephemeral these music downloads are. My fear is that I (we) are building up these massive digital libraries that, in a decade, will turn out to be the 8-track of our generation. Something new will come along and POOF, our extensive music library is useless. Since February, I have done a lot more purchasing and collecting of used records and CD's. I think of these as relatively cheap insurance for my digital library. The music I want to OWN, I purchase on either CD or vinyl and the stuff I just want to peruse or take a musical gander at, I download from friends. Because of this new collecting, I have some serious (maybe rare) finds! Really old John Adams records (like Shaker Loops sextet version), a couple Elliott Carter records, big Stravinsky box sets, etc.
With this collecting, there is also a rather corny sense of musical lineage? For instance, I feel as though the person who sold their old Elliott Carter records in South Eastern Maine is
A) a person I need to meet and have some serious conversation with...
B) has loved and cared for this item and has now, in a way, passed it down to me.
I feel it is now my responsibly to take care of this so that it will be passed to someone else in the future. It's kind of a beautiful thing.