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8 Important Classical Music Record Labels

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Record labels play an essential role in the music business, as they can make or break the careers of up-and-coming and established artists. In this article, we will look into some of the most important classical music labels and give an overview of the ones we consider relevant.

Classical music labels

At some point, experienced musicians usually decide to sign with a label that can help them manage their works, music marketing, bookings, finances, and other important parts of their music careers. Labels are also helpful for fans to discover new musicians and their works. When it comes to classical music record labels, artists and fans have many options to choose from. Let’s look into some of the most relevant ones.

1. Deutsche Grammophon

Deutsche Grammophon is a German classical music label that signs artists locally and internationally. It was founded in 1898 in Hannover by Emil Berliner, who invented the gramophone, and his Brother Joseph. Deutsche Grammophon is considered the oldest existing record label. As a result, it can present an extensive music catalog by a wide variety of renowned artists. Some contemporary musicians whose works have been released by the label are Mohammed Fairouz, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Max Richter, and Philipp Glass.

2. Decca Classics

Decca Classics is a classical music record label from London that is part of the label Decca Records. Now belonging to Universal Music Group, it has been home to various renowned artists and their music, including Max Richter, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Toru Takemisu, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Decca Classics has contributed to the world of classical music thanks to its technical innovations and the introduction of the long-playing record. Additionally, the recruitment of John Culshaw strongly influenced the quality of recordings.

3. Hyperion

Hyperion is an award-winning classical music label that provides classical music from all periods, from the 12th century to the present moment. It was launched in 1980 in the UK and remained independent until it was purchased by Universal Music Group in 2023. Its catalog comprises around 2500 CDs, with new recordings being added each year. Together with Deutsche Grammophon and Decca, it is considered one of the most influential classical music labels in the world.

4. Harmonia Mundi

Harmonia Mundi is a French record label launched in 1958 and belongs to PIAS Entertainment Group. In 2022, nearly half of its shares were purchased by Universal Music Group, giving the major label much control over yet another, initially fully independent label. Harmonia Mundi specializes in classical music, jazz, and world music. When it comes to the classical genre, it includes works from various eras that range from the Middle Ages to today. It is home to around 50 classical musicians and ensembles, including the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.

5. AVIE Records

Based in the UK, independent classical music label AVIE Records manages, markets, and publishes the music of international artists since 2002. It actively aims to foster the careers of young musicians. It operates based on a unique business model based on artist ownership. The label has received many awards and titles, including several Grammy’s. Its catalog features many renowned and up-and-coming artists, including Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Inbal Segev, Anne Akiko Meyers, Indrė Petrauskaitė or Isabel Bayrakdarian.

6. Sony Classical

Sony Classical is a record label that belongs to the multinational music company Sony Music Entertainment. After shapeshifting and being restructured and renamed several times, in 1990, it finally became what it is today. Since then, it has been home to various renowned artists, including Joshua Bell, Leontyne Price, Yo-Yo Ma, Hans Zimmer, or Philip Glass. Moreover, it operates within the film world and has released Oscar-winning soundtracks, including the one for Titanic.

7. Naxos

Naxos may be the perfect classical music label for those looking for variety and experimentation, as it does not primarily focus on famous artists. The label has developed, grown, and expanded tremendously since its launch in 1987. Its catalog consists of an impressive 11.000 titles that are kept at affordable prices with the intention to focus on the music. Naxos has worked with artists like Krzysztof Penderecki and John Corigliano. Moreover, it includes historic recordings, such as the piano works of Liszt. Because of its long list of artists, it may be attractive to those looking for a label that seems accessible to lesser known musicians.

8. Chandos Records

Chandos Records is a family run record label from Colchester (UK) that specializes in classical music. Founded in 1979, the label has focused on neglected music from composers worldwide and on providing listeners with a high sound quality, for which it has won several awards. Its catalog contains over 3000 titles and is updated and expanded every year. Among its artists are the BBC Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.

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Get tips on How to Succeed as an Artist, receive Music Distribution Discounts, and get the latest iMusician news sent straight to your inbox! Everything you need to grow your music career.

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