One of the brightest stars in the record industry firmament over the past decade has been the classical budget label Naxos Records, whose "stack them high, sell them low" philosophy was initially greeted with scepticism, not to say hoots of derision, by the established classical pack. But with annual sales of 15 million CDs worldwide and almost 13 per cent of last year's UK classical market under its belt, Naxos is laughing all the way to the bank.
The label's success has been critical as well as financial - over 200 Naxos CDs have earned three-star recommendations in the current edition of the Penguin CD Guide, and the catalogue extends from old chestnuts such as Vivaldi's The Four Seasons to contemporary best sellers by James MacMillan and Arvo Part. Naxos CDs reach places records have never reached before - Tesco, Dublin Tourism, Avoca Handweavers and the independent bookshops - and as for cheap and cheerful, Golden Discs shops are currently offering three Naxos CDs for a tidy £12.
"From our point of view the market for classical CDs has been too limited," explains Ian Willis of Cosmic Sounds, which distributes Naxos in Ireland. "It's important for us to get new blood into the system. At £4.99 a CD, people can experiment - people who wouldn't normally buy classical music can try something out, and people who know a lot about the classical scene can listen to something by a composer they don't know. We like to think there's a bit there for everybody, from the complete beginner to the real collector."