UMG's Dickon Stainer talks global opportunities for classical and jazz

UMG's Dickon Stainer talks global opportunities for classical and jazz

Dickon Stainer, president and CEO of Global Classics & Jazz, has spoken to Music Week about the growing opportunities for classical and jazz.

The senior Universal Music Group executive is interviewed in our latest issue

Stainer oversees Universal Music Group labels including Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Capitol’s Blue Note, Verve and ECM. Their rosters include Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Norah Jones, Lang Lang, Gregory Porter, Jon Batiste and Lise Davidsen. 

British classical label Hyperion is a new acquisition for Global Classics & Jazz and will retain its identity within the major.

“Hyperion is the last great, independent classical label in the world,” Stainer told Music Week. “It's a beautifully formed boutique, classical label.

“It’s famous in the classical artist community for being uncompromising, for beautiful artwork.They’ve got a huge mailing list that they serve directly, globally. It's a real artists’ label and a fans’ label. It’s a passionate, family company. For us, it was entirely natural to make sure that this would find the right home.” 

Stainers described the label, which has now moved into Universal Music UK in King’s Cross, as a natural fit within Global Classics & Jazz.

Hyperion has a track record of ambitious box sets for dedicated fans.

“There's probably an opportunity with some of the scale that we offer to do more of that, selectively,” said Stainer. “Over the years, it's something that Deutsche Grammophon and Decca have become very good at, creating bespoke products. I think we can probably do a bit more of that with Hyperion, it’s such a great catalogue.”

While composers such as Mix Richter and Ludovico Einaudi are already huge on DSPs, there’s a new opportunity for repertoire aimed at the more purist classical fan.

The classical world and the jazz world can always learn from other sectors of music

Dickon Stainer

The sector has received a major boost with the launch of Apple Music Classical, a standalone app included free for subscribers to the main platform. It offers the largest classical catalogue - five million tracks - including high-quality audio options such as Dolby Atmos, as well as fully optimised search covering composer, work, opus number, conductor and artist.

Stainer welcomed the launch of a streaming service for the classical fan with rigorous metadata and descriptions of works and composers.

“Probably, that [consumer] has been underserved until this point,” he said. “I think the Apple app is a tremendous opportunity for the industry.”

Stainer said specialist genres such as classical and jazz need to be “cherished”. 

“You can't do that without a degree of passion or expertise,” he said. “You've got to do it properly, you have to have the kind of commitment that Apple put into it.”

If follows the launch last year by the Deutsche Grammophon label of Stage+, a classical music subscription service featuring livestreams, a video archive and new audio releases.

“It’s an opportunity for an artist to have their audiovisual recordings and their audio recordings in one place, which you can't really get anywhere else,” explained Stainer. “So that was the desire, for artists to have their performances and their recordings on the same platform.”

Stainer was celebrating at the Grammys earlier this year when rising star Samara Joy won Best Jazz Vocal Album and - significantly - Best New Artist. The New Yorker faced competition from acts including Anitta, Maneskin and Wet Leg. Previous Best New Artist Grammy winners include Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish

“It was a bit unexpected, but what it felt was totally deserved,” said Stainer. “Can Samara Joy break in the UK? 100%. We've had other great jazz artists, Gregory Porter is another one that's become very successful here in the UK through building an audience, through superb artistry. So she’s going to be successful everywhere, including the UK.”

The global reach of Verve-signed Samara Joy is now being developed by Michelle Teh, newly-appointed senior vice president at Global Classics & Jazz. Teh has returned to GCJ from UMG’s global priorities team, where she has spent the last three years working on international campaigns for artists including Billie Eilish, Sam Smith and The Weeknd. 

Stainer described Teh as a “brilliant” executive.

"She's someone who started in classical and jazz and has a great understanding of those artists, but then she's got that experience of working on Billie Eilish," he told Music Week. "While these artists are very different, the classical world and the jazz world can always learn from other sectors of music about all kinds of different ways of promoting music, and how to build audiences. It's very important that we don't just stay in our lane when it comes to audience-building expertise.”

Subscribers can read the Music Week magazine interview with Dickon Stainer here.


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