Tag Archives: Sinfini

Top 5 most read posts of 2013

31 Dec

Most read of 2013The end of the year makes us all look back at statistics and moments of the previous twelve months.

Here is the top 5 blog posts of the year

1 Why I don’t like Sinfini

The quasi free-spirited website, that is meant to be run by passionate music lovers, but is indeed a property of Universal Music, who owns over 70% of the classical recording labels output


2 Kicking the Prommers to the ground is poor form

The rather unnecessary attack on prommers by Christopher Gillett…a blatant attempt at click baiting by Sinfini?


3 Gergiev gets a London welcome

A post on the rather blasé  approach by maestro Gergiev on the goings on back in Russia. It seems the campaigning has had limited success as he still seems to be largely unwilling to make any definitive statements. We will be happy to see his departure from the LSO by the end of 2015.


4 The shine of the blade / English National Opera’s Medea

The post on a glorious dress rehearsal that blew my socks off. Sarah Connolly in blazing form taking on and conquering one of the gems of the French baroque repertoire. I was floored by the intensity and would count it among the most memorable performances of my opera going life to date.


5 Wimsy and gorgeousness / Sophie Bevan and Sebastian Wybrew recital at Wigmore Hall

A gorgeous recital by two very accomplished young stars that was instantly charming and affecting. The rendition of Barber’s Hermit Songs was so fresh and beautifully realised it put a spring on my step.


A mixed bag but shows how topical subjects tend to be read more.

Why I don’t like Sinfini

5 Aug

Sinfini header

Since last November Sinfini has been trying to establish itself as a brand in classical music. Despite the loss of the ex boss of Classic FM magazine  (itself extinct like the dinosaurs)  John Evans, who quit  to join the Sunday Times’ new online motoring project titled Driving.

The general manager of Sinfini Tina Poyser gave some great voxpops at the time of launch:

‘It will be completely editorially independent but funded by Universal,’

‘Our key target audience is newcomers to classical music – we are not targeting the expert market – and a slightly younger demographic than the typical classical demographic…extensive use would be made of animation to attract viewers, and other ‘tools’ would gradually be introduced.’

(quotes gleaned from Classical Music Magazine)

One of the most dire aspects of the site as launched where the Shrigleyesque portrait caricatures of composers and even the  previous editor’s portrait (see below) did not escape that fate. They initially were all over the place but since have prudently been buried a few clicks away. Making it both an expensive mistake by Universal’s PR people and an indicator that they fundamentally misunderstood their audience.

It seems the launch of the site was part of the strategy of the new boss of Universal to popularise the experience and ‘join the digital revolution’…or in plain English to add a bit of rock’n’roll gleam to in his view lacklustre presentation of classical music.  He has made similar statements since, whenever a microphone is available in the vicinity. Giving the distinct impression that he doesn’t appreciate the fundamental differences between classical/opera and the pop world and why the differences serve the experience better. But then a record company boss that is out of touch with his customers and their needs is not quite a new phenomenon.  The article was published in The Independent in January

Another way they tried to subvert criticism of their funding model or the way the present themselves was to invite Norman Lebrecht, Opera Chic and Chris Gillett  to write for them (presumably for no fee). By adding their names to the roster, in the process obviously silencing them if they had any misgivings about the ownership particulars or content (their domain is indeed owned by the record company and registered by the mega lawyer and financial services firm CSC). In essence giving the impression that their site is hosting bona fide blogs without an agenda. They seem to be happy to balance the expensive design of the site paid by record company hard cash, accompanied by professional videos and then to invite pre-existing bloggers to add a veneer of blogging credibility.

Whois Sinfini

Most importantly the funding status or for that any mention to Universal has been removed from the About section on the site. A new visitor to it would possibly mistake it for an independent voice “cutting through classical” but I am afraid that fig leaf can’t quite hide the fact that Universal bankroll them at the tune of millions. Being uncritical and accepting of Sinfini is not an option as it erodes the blogging landscape and will eventually drown the genuine, independent voices. See the graphic below for a comparison of blurb pre and post-launch.

Sinfini universal disappearance

When challenged on Twitter both Messers Lebrecht and Gillett thought the ownership of the site did not pose a fundamental fault over its much vaunted independence. Conveniently they have both blocked me since we had the exchanges.

We can’t oversee the ownership status of the site and its funding basis when it can potentially be there to push merchandise for a company that near enough is monopolising the field of classical record labels. After the recent acquisition of EMI/Virgin they have also Decca, DG, ECM, Verve and Philips/Universal. Having the crack dealer in charge of an anti drugs website would seem contradictory, we need to challenge Sinfini on why it deems it acceptable to have a record company funding it in a non transparent manner and without the slightest declaration.

A feature on the advertising for Sinfini on the Creative Review magazine is less shy about the ownership of the site clearly quoting:

Owned by Universal, Sinfini describes itself as a site where readers can explore classical music whether they are “new to the genre or already something of an expert”. As well as articles, reviews and downloads, the site provides glossaries, timelines and guides explaining instruments, musical styles and the history of classical.

I am making a stand because there should be a firewall between musical criticism/appreciation and the source of the music biz’s mindless PR…the record companies. Until Sinfini comes clean and drops the over-familiar nonsense about being put together by music fans and becomes more transparent about its ownership status and funding base, it should be treated as a merchant selling goods on the sly, burning money that a record company has put aside as PR spend. In my eyes it is a blatant experiment in perverting and subverting the well established blogging community in order to sell more merchandise and to perpetuate PR as matter of fact.

For further entertainment value don’t miss out on reading the blog post by Norman Lebrecht on the launch back in November it is unintentionally hilarious and the comments below the line are an absolute hoot!

Also I would recommend two polemical articles on the Blog On an Overgrown Path which are challenging Sinfini’s self promotion, content and marketing links and strategy with the Universal mothership.


PS For those that find the above a personal attack on individuals, I will reiterate that my main concern is the dishonesty of this particular site. When papers like The Independent on Sunday stop arts coverage and fire their critics websites become even more important for dissemination of news, reviews and listening suggestions. Thus allowing Universal to be unquestioned on the subject seems like a very silly idea. 

Kicking the Prommers to the ground is poor form

17 Jul

BBC PRoms 2013Reading performing artists putting down their own audience never makes any sense to me. Chris Gillett wrote a blog post for Sinfini (the Universal Music financed quasi blogging effort. Apparently tasked to demystify classical music…). He  explains his dislike for older prommers and their rudeness. I have mentioned many times my experience from the two Proms seasons I worked at the Royal Albert Hall as a Steward on Twitter. And I will make it clear that I am not the biggest fan of the ridiculous “sporting” element introduced by the hunt/cattle run for the front of the arena. A lot of the hoggers are smelly, unpleasant people who are there more to be seen than to listen. But they are a minority. His assertion that by abolishing the season passes the crowd would change or be magically younger/different is naive if not ridiculous. Who has the time to go and queue for the Proms? Only the unemployed, students or the retired (sons and daughters of oligarchs are invited to Grand Tier Boxes). So the demographic for the front few rows will look identical season tickets or not.

His conclusion: Now, I’m no great fan of any movement that attempts to make concert-going more appealing to the young at the expense of the middle-aged and elderly. Why should the young have everything their own way? But I really think the Proms needs a shake-up, to break the stranglehold the ageing, die-hard prommers now have on this extraordinary festival.
Seems totally over the top and verging on the disingenuous.

The Proms may have many faults, including a ridiculous sense of self-worth but at least they are truly accessible with the £5 standing promming tickets. And I have taken the opportunity to see many great orchestras and soloists over the last decade for such a small charge. As a Steward I had to intervene many times when arena prommers verbally abused foreign visitors for not following their arcane rules, but this small minority that bullies newcomers exists in any closely-knitted group.  Using such a minority as a shorthand to project our own ideas about what an audience has to be, leads us to some very predictable conclusions.

Classical music circles get into a navel gazing mode rather frequently when they start pondering the older age of their audiences and overall access.The age of the audiences should not be the main object of fascination but the size. Orchestras, opera houses and concert halls should strive to bring in many people from whatever age and background. The senseless pursuit of a mythical group of youngsters that will instantly fall in love with classical and opera is a construct perpetuated by the very people who are meant to help make venues all-embracing in reach. Maybe the ulterior motive is that talking about age is much more convenient because it absolves them from responsibility in looking into their price structures and ticket distribution. Because the  main two reasons for not going to concerts is the failure of music education in schools and the unreasonable ticket prices at certain venues. With the recession biting, potential audiences are very price sensitive.

The Proms with offering nearly 1.000 tickets for £5 at every concert are giving a low cost entry to a world of music seen as unreachable or elitist. Can we celebrate this very fact and refrain from giving in to victimising the faithful punters that attend every season? Despite a wholly unsuitable venue and scorching temperatures the Albert Hall is near sold out for most events. Lets stop this self hating nonsense and wish Mr Gillett good luck the next time he steps on that stage as a comprimario or as a plaything for a new composer. Lets spread the love of good music and stop these nonsensical divisions and finger-pointing.


It seems that pointing out to C G that ignoring the fact that he offended far too many people by being petty and presumptuous and avoiding to respond to any tweets addressed to him…made him unfollow and block me on Twitter. A little hissy fit that makes a great addition to this silly little attention seeking attempt from the grubby Sinfini site.

CG Twitter

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