Naxos / ClassicsOnline
founder and chairman
Founder and chairman of the Naxos label, Klaus Heymann has propelled Naxos to become the recording industry’s leader of affordable, high-quality classical music. Heymann established Naxos in 1987, hiring up-and-coming recording artists to offer classical fans standard repertoire at the most affordable prices. With a huge catalog and typically half the price of its competitors, Naxos has become one of the world’s most popular classical music labels.
With its expansive catalog, worldwide distribution and affordable releases, Naxos faces virtually no competition from major record labels. Nearly all of these labels have been reluctant to enter the value-priced CD market.
In May 2007, Heymann launched a one-stop classical music download store, ClassicsOnline, www.classicsonline.com. In line with Heymann’s long-standing vision for Naxos, ClassicsOnline offers a wide range of classical music (in addition to a selection of classic jazz, blues, folk and world music) for both general music lovers and serious collectors. The site features nearly 22,000 digital rights management (DRM) free albums from more than 100 leading independent labels, including BIS, Chandos, Coro, CPO, Dacapo, Haenssler, Hungaroton, Ondine and many others. In July 2008, ClassicsOnline began offering 320 kbps download quality, the highest available for music download sites.
A German-born, Hong Kong-based electronics distributor and lifelong music enthusiast, Heymann originally moved to the city to open the Asian office of The Overseas Weekly, a newspaper for American Servicemen. After completing his assignment at the newspaper, he started a mail-order business for American GIs that offered cameras, watches and audio equipment. Subsequently, he started a business distributing consumer and professional audio equipment in Hong Kong and China. To boost sales for and promote his Bose and Revox audio lines, Heymann began organizing local classical music concerts. He soon realized that the recordings of the artists at his concerts were unavailable for purchase in Hong Kong. Seeing an opportunity for the Hong Kong classical market, he founded Pacific Music and started to import and distribute the independent classical labels for which the artists were recording. Heymann also joined the board of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and became instrumental in turning the semi-professional orchestra into a fully professional body.
Pacific Music, having started out as an importer and distributor of independent classical labels, subsequently expanded and became the licensee for South-East Asia and Korea for many of the world’s leading pop and rock labels, such as Arista, Chrysalis, Jive, Motown, Mute, RCA and Virgin. Pacific Music eventually became the largest independent music company in Southeast Asia with subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, and licensees in the Philippines and Korea.
When manufacturing costs of compact discs dropped in 1986, Heymann decided to carve a classical niche in the developing value-priced CD market. Realizing that major labels were uninterested in lowering CD retail prices, Heymann moved forward by establishing the independent Naxos label (named after the Greek island long associated with art and culture.) In the beginning, Heymann relied on young or unknown artists and on orchestras and ensembles from Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
However, soon more established artists and orchestras joined the label, and today Naxos produces recordings in more than 30 countries around the globe, making it the world’s most international record label.
During its more than twenty-year history, Naxos has developed from a budget label into the world’s leading classical record label offering an unequalled breadth and depth of repertoire and number of new releases.
Heymann insisted – and still does – on recording every work only once and not duplicating repertoire, unless a recording from the early days of the label is no longer up to the label’s extremely high standards today.
Birth of HK and Marco Polo:
After Heymann met renowned classical violinist Takako Nishizaki during her engagement with the Hong Kong Philharmonic as a guest soloist, they married shortly thereafter. Promising her father that he would develop her gift as a violinist, Heymann founded the HK label, recording the complete works of Fritz Kreisler and a wide range of Chinese music, including Chen Gang’s and He Zhan-Hao’s Butterfly Lovers Concerto, all performed by Nishizaki. He then established Marco Polo, a label devoted to symphonic rarities.
Naxos Positioned for the Future:
Positioned as both a quality and value label, Naxos has invested resources and established a presence in every major music market across the globe. In spite of Naxos’s expansion and worldwide customer demand, the label’s and Heymann’s vision of recording and exposing new artists remains unchanged.
While focused on standard classical works in its early days, Naxos now records a wider range of repertoire than any other label, major or independent. The label’s American Classics imprint made a wide range of American classical music available internationally for the first time, garnering unprecedented critical acclaim. Other important projects include the complete works of Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Rodrigo.
When Naxos celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007, Heymann announced that the label was positioned to survive and prosper without selling CDs. ClassicsOnline, Heymann’s vision as the online destination for classical music downloads, has seen a twenty-fold increase in U.S. sales and a four-fold increase in European sales a year after launching. The subscription streaming service, Naxos Music Library, offers educational institutions and professionals access to more than 25,000 CDs.
Heymann and his wife reside in Hong Kong with their son, Henryk.
Heymann is frequently interviewed about the classical music industry (and the music industry, in general); his business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit and transformative impact on the classical music industry; and digital music by the New York Times, The Guardian (UK), NPR, CNN International, music trade publications and several other prominent media outlets.
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- NAXOS’ PREMIER DOWNLOAD SITE, CLASSICSONLINE, HONORED WITH MIDEM’S “CLASSICAL DOWNLOAD AWARD”
(December 21, 2009)
- Naxos’s Premier Download Site, ClassicsOnline, Launches World’s Largest, Online Collection of 320-kbps, DRM-Free Classical Music – Nearly 22,000 Albums
(November 3, 2008)
- ClassicsOnline First Anniversary Celebrations
(July 1, 2008)
- ClassicsOnline Launch