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Klaus Heymann: A 20th-Anniversary Chat with the Founder of Naxos

January 2, 2008

By Jason Victor Serinus, December, 2007

"When Hong Kong–based music lover and electronics-equipment distributor Klaus Heymann (footnote 1), now 70, first began organizing classical-music concerts as a way to boost sales, he had no idea he would end up founding the world's leading classical-music label. But after starting a record-label import business and meeting his future wife, leading violinist Takako Nishizaki, the German-born entrepreneur sought a way to promote her artistry. First he founded the HK label, which specialized in Chinese symphonic music (including Nishizaki's recording of Butterfly Lovers, the famous violin concerto by Chen Gang). Next he established Marco Polo, a label devoted to symphonic rarities.

By 1986, when his Pacific Music had become the biggest international classical distributor in Southeast Asia, Heymann envisioned a budget-priced CD label that would offer his Southeast Asian customers classical CDs at the same price as LPs. Naming the new label Naxos, after the Greek island long associated with art and culture, he released the first five of an anticipated 50 titles. Then, on discovering that the major labels had virtually no interest in entering the bargain market, Heymann seized one opportunity after another to expand his vision.

In an interview last summer, as Naxos celebrated its 20th anniversary, Heymann told Newsday International that his label is now in the position to survive and thrive without selling CDs. Wondering if Naxos was planning to stop selling CDs, I contacted the label's former US publicist, Mark A. Berry, to arrange a chat. A week later, Heymann and I spoke via Skype (footnote 2).

Jason Victor Serinus: In Alexandra Seno's Newsday International article of July 30, 2007 [], you're quoted as saying, "We could live very comfortably if from tomorrow we never sold another CD."

Klaus Heymann: What I was trying to say is that our revenue from other sources is now big enough to let us not only survive but lead a healthy, profitable existence. Of course, we don't want to lose the physical sales, which are still the daily bread and butter. But if it all went away, and we had to live solely on download revenue from our streaming library, licensing, ring tones, and all the other stuff, we'd still be extremely profitable—maybe more profitable than we are now.", December, 2007

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