Naxos Records: by Eric Lakanen

Since 1987, Naxos Records, an independent label specializing in classical music, has redefined how this genre is both marketed and presented. Utilizing Innovative strategies to record exciting new repertoire with exceptional talent has made it possible for Naxos to develop one of the largest and fastest growing catalogues of unduplicated repertoire available. Currently having over 2500 titles with state-of-the-art sound and consumer-friendly prices, Naxos, now a household name to all classical record buyers, has impressed collectors by its quality, variety of repertoire and reasonable price; greatly contributed to Naxos becoming the world’s largest classical music label.

Naxos is the brainchild of Klaus Heymann, a German-born entrepreneur and music lover based in Hong Kong who saw great opportunity for a budget-priced CD label. His introduction to the record industry began once he started organizing classical music concerts in Hong Kong sponsored by Bose and Revox in order to boost their sales. When visiting artists involved in these concerts realized that their records could not be found in Hong Kong record shops, record distribution became an additional enterprise of Heymann’s company.

Klaus Heymann: Founder and CEO of Naxos Records

In 1986, Heymann saw an opportunity when the manufacturing costs of compact discs dropped. His vision: a budget-priced CD label that could offer customers classical CDs for the same price as LPs. When he released the first five Naxos CDs in 1987 they were sold in Hong Kong at a price of $6.25 (US Dollar) where in the United States, CDs were typically selling for $15 to $20.

With its humble beginnings as a small, independent record label, Naxos could not afford to record standard repertoire with internationally famous artists and orchestras. Naxos met this challenge by recording solely with young or unknown artists and orchestras that had no proper exposure in the world market. Soon after building up the Naxos catalogue with the “standard” classical music repertoire, the company then ventured into releasing a great deal of never-before-released music from all over the world.
What sets Naxos apart from almost every other classical label is the fact that they do not duplicate repertory, nor delete any of its recordings to make room for new ones. Therfore, every album created can potentially generate revenue indefinitely.

It is music, not the “brand name” artist that drives the Naxos catalog. When it comes to deciding what music to record, Heymann always has observed: “If it’s good enough to record and the project is affordable, then do it.”

In an interview with Gramophone, Heymann had this to say:

“Well, I think, the major labels don’t have a lot of label loyalty. People don’t go into a shop and ask for the latest EMI, or DG (Deutsche Grammophon) – they will ask for the artist. Whereas the label loyalty is with the indies – people who buy Hyperion, people who buy Harmonia Mundi – labels which stand for certain things, have a well-defined image. And Naxos is I think the only label, which is sold in shops as a label, I’ve never seen Hyperion stands, or EMI stands, but there are a lot of Naxos stands around the world. Because the label is based in Hong Kong, we don’t have a natural identity – so in England, we’re an English label, in America an American label, with the American classics – we’ve had a few lucky breaks in that respect.”

That’s the Naxos Philosophy: The music always comes first.

But that’s only the beginning: over the past decade, Naxos has manifested itself as the foremost distributor of other independent classical music labels from all over the world, as well as the classical titles issued by the major labels. While other record companies seem to be in a downward spiral as a result of digital downloads, Naxos is flourishing and making the enormous catalog of their own releases and the labels they distribute available in a variety of new formats while still managing to make a profit. All while continuing to remain dedicated to releasing a physical product.

Naxos Music Library

Naxos has been aggressive in the development of educational and outreach materials, specifically designed to introduce new listeners to the joys of classical music. In addition to their physical CDs, Blu-Rays, DVDs, Etc., Naxos also provides a variety of digital services, including, a dedicated classical music download service which aims to offer the widest range of classical music possible for purchase. Their goal: to eventually make every work of classical music ever recorded available on the site. Not only do they provide downloads of classical music, but also a wide range of jazz, nostalgia, world and contemporary instrumental. Also Naxos’ subscription services (Naxos Music Library, Naxos Music Library Jazz, Naxos Spoken Word Library and Naxos Web Radio) not only offer practically the entire standard repertoire, but also an enormous range of specialist repertoire not available from other online sources.

Through these and other accomplishments, Naxos has thrived, not only as an independent label, but also as the World’s leading Classical Music label. Accumulating awards from major music publications including Gramophone Awards and numerous Editor’s Choices, GRAMMY nominations and awards, nominations and wins for the Cannes Classical Awards, and AFIM nominations and awards.,0

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