Is the Classical “New Year’s Concert” Dead?

886444223270.170x170-75.jpgIt’s become an institution: the classical New Year’s Concert from Vienna. Played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, this concert is broadcast live on TV around the world, and released on CD and DVD shortly after. First performed in 1939, the concert now features a different conductor each year – since 1986 -, to try to sell an event that has become as exciting as an award ceremony.

It’s quite predictable. There are waltzes. Films of ballet dancers in some schloss somewhere. Shots of the well-heeled Viennese sitting in their seats. And shots of the almost-entirely male Vienna Philharmonic. (To be fair, there are a few women in the orchestra; in past years, nary a female was to be seen playing an instrument.)

Norman Lebrecht has pointed out that this year’s concert has only sold 611 copies in the US in the first 12 days of 2014. To be fair, the disc only went on sale on January 7, so that’s less than a week, but it’s still a dud.

The iTunes Store heavily promoted this album before its release, with banners for pre-orders, but if you look at the classical section of the iTunes Store, it’s nowhere to be seen. (You have to search for it to find it.) And among the best-selling albums in the iTunes Store’s classical genre, it is, as of this writing, number 121. I have no idea how many sales that represents, but it’s not much; look at some of the albums ahead of it. And there’s not a single review or rating.

But is this a surprise? How many different New Year’s concert recordings does anyone need? The music is essentially the same from year to year, the program simple and limited, and, unless you really, really like waltzes, it’s a 90-minute drag.

It could be that sales have dropped because of streaming; or because you can watch the concert on YouTube. Or that people simple don’t care any more.

Note: it is also possible that problems with the discs have limited physical sales. On Amazon.com, the disc is no longer sold. Amazon says:

While this item is available from other marketplace sellers on this page, it is not currently offered by Amazon.com because customers have told us there may be something wrong with our inventory of the item, the way we are shipping it, or the way it’s described here.

According to reviewers, the two discs in the package are the same.

However, this doesn’t explain the paltry digital sales.