Classical Music Sells Millions Of Records!!!

Times are tough in the recorded music business with sales revenues declining significantly and regularly this century. Times are particularly tough in the classical music part of that business with its decline outpacing the market at large.

John Culshaw and Solti (in Plimsoll’s) in the Studio working on The Ring.

We’ve been reading Norman Lebrecht’s marvellously pacey race through the history of classical recording in his book “Maestro’s, Masterpieces and Madness” and would recommend it to all people interested in the story of the record business.

At the end of the book, Lebrecht lists all the classical records that have sold over 1 million records. There are only 25 of them. The first record to do so – and clinging on to the list at #25 – is Gaisberg’s recordings of Caruso. Only ten classical recordings have shifted 3 million or more. The top 5 all time sellers are as follows

1. Wagner Ring – Solti (Decca) 1958 – 1965 18 million. Produced by Decca legend, John Culshaw, this is “a better record than Sgt Pepper” according to its fans. Here is an excerpt from a BBC documentary about the making of the records, starring Solti’s strange jerky style conducting and Culshaw’s calm comfortings. Style fact: Decca engineers (and Solti) wore white plimsolls when in the studio to avoid causing background noise.

2. The Three Tenors (Decca) 1990 14 million

3. Vivaldi: Four Seasons (Philips) 1959 9.5 million

4. The Three Tenors 2 (Warner) 1994 7.8 million

5. Canto Gregoriano 1993 5.5 million


One thought on “Classical Music Sells Millions Of Records!!!

  1. Back when I was a student then an undergraduate (late 70s early 1980s, in the States), I played classical guitar as part of my music minor requirements; our teacher always told us, buy the record! Listen to the dynamics! Don’t just play the notes, play the music! Despite being poor students we did so and I distinctly remember that classical LPs were so less expensive than rock and pop — by a country mile. They also tended to be shoved over into one corner of the shops. Then Kramer vs Kramer came out — suddenly all the grown ups wanted the Four Seasons, and then classical records shot through the roof in price over the next few years (at least where I grew up)! My little group of musos were quite cross — here we’d been made fun of by our Kiss and Van Halen-loving classmates for liking classical music (must be said in the tone of someone tasting something very bitter!) and now suddenly it was cool! More to the point, we had to choose between spending all our pocket money on weekly music lesson-pieces or augmenting our rock and roll stash…

    Sounds quite a neat book; will certainly check it out!

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