A new keyword is born thanks to NPR's All Things Considered. Because I keep up on any mention classical music gets in mainstream culture (and compared to our general audience, NPR qualifies as "mainstream"), check out All Things Considered's story on Seraphic Fire's recent recording of the Monteverdi Vespers. Significant because a) it is on the iTunes classical top ten and b) it was independently released. This is the future of not just classical music, but almost all music, as the economic justification for the "record label" continues to break down.
The short version of my argument: releasing and distributing records used to require extensive capital. If you were going to make any significant money off of record sales, you had to produce a significant number of physical records, which would have to be distributed all around the country (and world) to actual physical stores, which physical people would have to come and pick up. Not only that, but you would have to record your album in a very expensive space with very expensive recording equipment, microphones, analog tape recorders, etc. This was obviously out of reach of your average garage band or little-known Baroque chamber choir. However, thanks to the internet, this is no longer the case. The cost of recording an album on ProTools and uploading to iTunes is relatively insignificant. Seraphic Fire's success is emblematic of this- they are doing something right. And they didn't have to pay record executives anything to do it.
Of course, microphones are still kind of expensive.
Check out and listen to the full story here.
By the way, about half of the story is a review / explanation of Seraphic Fire and Monteverdi's vespers. Besides the economic issues the story raises, the album actually seems well worth checking out. I will keep you posted.