In 2012, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge had reached the end of its contract with EMI, and decided to take artistic and economic control of its recorded output with a new media initiative. I joined the project in May 2012 to oversee the commercial side of the choir’s media activities, including the launch and ongoing management of their new label.
The first album on the choir’s own label is Nine Lessons & Carols, released on October 22nd, 2012. It includes the choir’s full 2010 Christmas Eve service, along with carols commissioned for the choir since 2005. The album also includes a new carol, written specially for the record by John Rutter, called All bells in paradise.
We launched the label with a press event in Cambridge, at which John Rutter’s new carol was performed for the first time to an invited audience of media, retail buyers and other industry insiders. The choir went on to promote the album through appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and The One Show’s Christmas special, both of which also served to promote their annual radio and TV broadcasts, “Carols from King’s” and “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” on Christmas Eve.
Nine Lessons & Carols will continue to be a valuable asset in the choir’s catalogue for many years to come. It reached #2 in the Specialist Classical Chart in its first year, and very nearly sold out before Christmas – not bad for an album from a new label containing five world premiere recordings and twenty minutes of spoken-word content. It received an enormous amount of coverage, including features and reviews in The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, Classical Music, Choir & Organ and International Record Review.
It takes a village to launch a label on this scale, and I was fortunate to have some great partners to work with. The album was produced by Simon Kiln at Abbey Road. Logos, album covers and other branding are by Grace at First Grade. Wash Media made the promotional films, Benjamin Ealovega took the promotional photos and Sutton PR handled the press. Intermusica contributed significant advance planning and development and helped everything along behind the scenes. LSO Live gave us operational support and access to a first-class international distribution network including Harmonia Mundi, The Orchard and Naxos. iTunes pulled out all the stops with huge international support. The Shop at King’s proved they’re more than a college gift shop by selling more copies of the album than Amazon and HMV combined, and if all those sales had been counted towards our chart position, we’d have made it to #1.
Now the label is up and running, there’s plenty more work to do. Future releases include a scholarly survey of the various realisations of the Mozart Requiem with the Academy of Ancient Music, and a historically informed recording of Benjamin Britten’s cantata, Saint Nicolas, with the Britten Sinfonia.