Polygram, Penguin ink for Classics

Music and manuscripts mix though interest is low

SAN FRANCISCO — Polygram’s Classics and Jazz labels have pacted with Penguin Books to create Penguin Music Classics, an imprint designed to tap the repertoire of the music conglom’s labels.

The publishing company also has plans to launch its own label, with Polygram subsid London Records providing marketing support.

The releases are being billed by Polygram execs as “a distinct and highly innovative range of classical” albums. The rosters of Polygram’s labels boast such artists as Luciano Pavarotti, Cecilia Bartoli, Andrea Bocelli, Pierre Boulez, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, among others.

Repertoire for the discs will be culled from Polygram’s London, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon and Verve labels. The first set of releases are expected to hit stores by year’s end.

“Books and classical music have a natural affinity, and we’re delighted to be exploring the commercial potential of this link with the best names in the music business,” said Michael Lyton, chairman-CEO of the Penguin Group.

The pact comes during a period of waning interest from consumers in classical and jazz recordings.

With stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders Books stocking music among its hardcovers, labels are searching for ways to better link up with bookstore consumers.

Several labels, such as BMG’s Windham Hill Group, have recently been tapping into the bookstore set — which is typically older and upscale — to tout its wares.

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