Goodbye, EMI Classics

Richard S. Ginell - From Out of the The WestBy Richard S. Ginell: From Out of the West

New logos for EMI Classics and Virgin ClassicsTake a good long look at the logos on the right of this column.  That may be the last you will see of a historic cornerstone of the classical recording industry.

Word has come of the fate of EMI Classics and its sister label Virgin Classics, both of which were acquired by Warner Music Group in February, a deal made official as of July 1. All of the classical material in the vast holdings of EMI, which stretches back to 1897, will now be under the imprint of Warner Classics.  As for Virgin Classics, that entire catalog – which only goes back to 1988 – will now be part of Erato, the French label which Warner bought and marginalized, only to revive it for this purpose.

The reason why you won’t see these logos anymore is that Universal – which sold off EMI’s classical holdings in order to get permission to acquire the bulk of EMI – still owns the rights to these brand names. So these logos are going to be removed from all new and catalogue product, erasing over a hundred years of recording lore with a flick of a corporate pen.  And the same presumably will apply to the Recording Angel logo, which is almost as old as the gramophone itself, and except for the Western Hemisphere, the iconic His Master’s Voice painting.

Warner makes the usual statements about “the next exciting chapter and new momentum,” “building on that remarkable legacy,”  and all that. But given Warner’s recent track record – emasculating Teldec and Erato, signing very few new artists, relying almost entirely upon one redundant reissue program after another – I wouldn’t bet a used iPod on it.