ANU to launch not-for-profit music record label

22 March 2018

We hope this can become a repository for great music that would otherwise be buried and forgotten.

Academic publisher ANU Press will begin publishing music under its own new label from 2019 to distribute and promote some of Australia's best musical pieces that don't secure recording deals with a traditional music label.

As digital distribution is reducing profit margins on music, artists not supported by major record labels in classical music, jazz and popular music are being squeezed out of the recording industry as record labels are no longer able to make their projects financially viable.

World-renowned composer and recording artist Dr Kim Cunio from The Australian National University (ANU) School of Music has found it increasingly difficult to get an Australian recording deal for his art music.

To overcome the problem Dr Cunio has been the driving force behind establishing the ANU Press Music - a not-for-profit model of free distribution for music projects with a focus on innovation, research and accessibility.

Dr Cunio said the idea to start a music press began through his own experience.

"My last release was with a US label. It did really well and was long-listed for a Grammy. It sold well, yet still lost money," Dr Cunio said.

"Fifteen years ago a record sold for $25-$30 and if you sold 10,000 copies in Australia, which is a very good run for a classical or jazz record, your record company could make a good profit.

"With online distribution, that same record is selling for about $6. If it's on Spotify, your work can get thousands of plays and you take home cents, not even dollars.

"The music that is supported by commercial and mainstream record labels is surviving, but other musicians across classical, jazz and popular just aren't able to make a living anymore, where a generation ago they could. These might well be the musicians who we most admire in the future"

With many fine  established and emerging  artists unable to secure recording deals, their music is often going unpublished and is at risk of being forgotten. The ANU Press Music will provide an avenue for a digital release of this music.

"We hope this can become a repository for great music that would otherwise be buried and forgotten," he said.

"Instead of selling the music, we will give it away. This is not about making money, it's about the dissemination and preservation of fine work with the potential of finding new markets and new audiences."

As well as the musical recordings themselves, the press will have a focus on publishing accompanying materials that will help turn the releases into holistic works of art, with detailed stories about the creation and genesis of projects. 

"We can include a music score, a written paper, a book chapter or a series of webcasts of how the music was made," Dr Cunio said.

Acting Manager of the ANU Press Emily Hazlewood said she was excited to be partnering with the ANU School of Music for the project.

"ANU Press was a pioneer in open-access academic publication when it was established in 2003," Ms Hazlewood said.

"After 15 years of publishing world-class books, ANU Press is excited to again be at the cutting edge of open-access exploration, providing a unique service to music academics and musicians around the globe.

"We hope this new imprint will change the world of scholarly and commercial music publication as we know it, enable greater access and diffusion of truly wonderful pieces of composition and provide an outlet for musicians who have struggled to have their work heard and recognised."

Dr Cunio will be outlining the project in a pubic seminar titled The Case for a Music Press on Thursday. More information is available here: