How UMG is powering legendary classical label Hyperion's entry into the streaming world

How UMG is powering legendary classical label Hyperion's entry into the streaming world

UK classical label Hyperion is opening up its rich catalogue from the last four decades to streaming audiences for the first time.

The label’s move on to DSPs was revealed last week, four months on from the acquisition by Universal Music Group. The deal strengthens the major’s position in classical music globally. 

Speaking to Music Week, Dickon Stainer, president and CEO of UMG’s Global Classics & Jazz, stressed that Hyperion will retain its famous name, alongside similarly high-quality Universal labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and ECM Records. 

“You've got to retain your identity,” said Stainer. “Hyperion has got a very beautifully curated [approach], like an artistic watermark that runs through the label. It is also artistic in terms of how it looks, the visuals, the design. That's why we're still doing the very ambitious deluxe physical box sets [alongside streaming].”

The iconic classical label was founded in South London in 1980 by Ted Perry, and became one the best-loved classical music labels in the world. It’s now run by his son, MD Simon Perry, and has moved into the Universal Music UK HQ in King’s Cross.

“It’s been a passionately-run family company,” said Stainer. “I've known Simon for a long time, I knew Ted before him. I've just stayed close to the family, knowing at some point that Simon might want to go into partnership with a larger company. So I just think it was the right time for him.

“We're very proud to be associated with Hyperion, the quality and the legacy of the label, and we want to continue with the innovation. It’s incredibly important for us to do that job well.”

Hyperion is aiming to release its entire catalogue of over 2,000 recordings for streaming by spring 2024. The first 200 albums were released last week, with subsequent collections to follow every fortnight from September 15.

In the announcement, Stainer described it as a “special moment of discovery for this precious and pioneering label”.

The move on to DSPs is a landmark moment for Hyperion, which has required close and careful attention to detail.

“When labels get acquired in this way, there's a lot of practical stuff, just in terms of ingesting the catalogues and ensuring it is done in the right way,” explained Stainer. “There are a lot of technical things to make sure that's done correctly.”

The label exudes class and there’s a responsibility in taking that on

Dickon Stainer

The first 200 catalogue albums released on DSPs were selected to represent the story of the label. There are key recordings from Hyperion’s roster of artists, including Arcangelo, Mahan Esfahani, Marc-André Hamelin, Angela Hewitt, Sir Stephen Hough, Alina Ibragimova, Steven Isserlis, Steven Osborne, Polyphony, Howard Shelley and Takács Quartet, among many others.

The catalogue covers 900 years of music across sacred and secular, choral and solo vocal to orchestral, chamber and instrumental, much of it unique to Hyperion. Their long-term approach has led to such projects as the world’s first Complete Schubert Song Edition on 40 albums, the world’s first Complete Liszt Piano Music across 100 albums, and more than 200 romantic piano concertos across 87 individual albums.

“The label exudes class,” said Stainer. “There’s a responsibility in taking that on, because it's been so well managed. These great labels are a part of what Universal has always been about. So it's a responsibility we accept and something that we take incredibly seriously.”

Even as it enters the streaming world, Hyperion will maintain its recognisable cover artwork, including detailed digital booklets (usually in English, French and German) being made available within streaming platforms that carry the option. Sung texts for choral and vocal music will also be available to streaming platforms with the functionality.

In future, all new Hyperion titles will be simultaneously available for streaming, physical purchase and download. New releases by the label include the latest Dvorák album from the Grammy-winning Takács Quartet.

Apple Music recently launched its standalone classical app included within the regular subscription, which has been a boost for the sector and its repertoire.

“Classical is now incredibly broad and our job really is to serve the specialist and generalist classical consumer,” said Stainer of the UMG Classics & Jazz repertoire. “Such is the breadth of [Universal’s classical] labels now that they're attracting far younger consumers, and streaming has been a huge area of access for people.”

Hyperion has established a strong international business in territories such as Australia. Stainer described the audience for specialist labels such as Hyperion, Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Classics as “people who might attend Carnegie Hall or the Royal Opera House”. 

“This portfolio of labels is historically valuable, it's modern and cultural,” he said. “And there are, on all of them, artists coming through challenging perceptions.”

Click here for our interview with Dickon Stainer on the growth in classical and jazz.


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