The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


New Albion shuts up shop, retains digital sales

San Francisco modern composition label New Albion is shutting down after 25 years in business. The label, run by Foster Reed, will still manage digital sales but there will be no more releases. All remaining physical stock will be sent to the individual artists, so fans looking to buy records can contact artists direct. The last release on the label was in 2008.

Reed will be moving on to work on a project to bring US composers to Cuba to perform, teach masterclasses and exchange ideas. Reed says: "In 1984 I did not foresee that the digital hardware manufacturers would use content as a loss leader to sell hardware upgrades, and therefore did not anticipate that content would no longer have a monetary value that justified the effort and expense of making it. I regret that I did not see that the record industry would collapse so irrevocably. I thought I was creating a catalogue that I would ultimately sell and thereby pay myself back minimum wage for the 25 years I gave to it.

"The last six records or so, by artists both established and up and coming, received our normal mailings of a few hundreds of copies to stores, stations, critics and friends, and sold less than the first few LPs in the mid-80s.

"The digital game has been good in the sense that it seems that many more people are exposed to the music. We get reports of streams in the tens and hundreds of thousands... In terms of purchased downloads the digital world is the only game in town, and it's much smaller than what can drive the economics of what we did."

All New Albion releases are available digitally, and download links for third parties will be added over the next few weeks here.