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St. Olaf Records goes digital with Naxos partnership

From radio broadcasts and vinyl records, to tape decks and compact discs, St. Olaf Records has delivered the recordings of St. Olaf College’s music ensembles to audiences through every popular medium. That tradition continues as St. Olaf Records has entered a formal partnership with Naxos Music Group to become one of the company’s distributed labels.

Naxos of America is the leading classical music distributor in North America, and handles the distribution of thousands of classical music labels and artists that include industry giants as well as emerging and niche artists. Through this partnership, all existing and future physical and digital recordings made under the St. Olaf Records masthead will be distributed and managed by Naxos in partnership with the Music Organizations Office at St. Olaf. 

Not only will Naxos handle the distribution of physical products (CDs, vinyl LPs, and DVDs), but more critically, will assist in the digital distribution of St. Olaf Records’ discography of 95+ recorded titles to digital service providers that include Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube, and many more.

“We are thrilled to enter this partnership with Naxos, which will not only increase access to our current library of recordings, but elevate our future releases and artistic endeavors,” says Director of College Relations for Music Organizations Jean Parish. “In order to reach current and new audiences, it was imperative for us to get our music to where people consume music most: streaming.” 

With a handful of recordings that date back to the 1940s, St. Olaf Records was reenvisioned as it’s known today in 1978 by the late Bob “B.J.” Johnson, former manager of the St. Olaf Choir. Johnson knew the value of sharing the music created by ensembles at St. Olaf, and built an enterprise that extended its reach to thousands of people beyond those reached through live performances each and every year. This partnership with Naxos is the next step in continuing to honor the mission of reaching the widest audience possible.

DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE RELATIONS FOR MUSIC ORGANIZATIONS JEAN PARISHPlanning for the future would not be possible without acknowledging the historical excellence of music and its leadership at St. Olaf. The consistent thread connecting the history of St. Olaf Records to now has been the extraordinary talent of our student musicians, led by exceptional conductors and teachers who have built the choral and instrumental programs into the celebrated ensembles they are today.

Jean Parish displays St. Olaf Records releases from the past decades.

To date, more than 65 titles from the St. Olaf Records back catalogue have been fully distributed to digital and streaming platforms by Naxos, with recordings by nine ensembles, including the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Choir, and St. Olaf Orchestra. Additionally, titles from the back catalog are still forthcoming, the bulk of those being recordings of the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival.

In this partnership, St. Olaf Records maintains artistic control of all current and future releases and decision-making, but the industry expertise and classical label experience offered by Naxos will be invaluable when it comes to recording and releasing new music. In 2021 alone, the Naxos of America label and label partners released thousands of new recordings, and earned 35 GRAMMY® nominations and 5 GRAMMY® wins.

“The flexibility of the digital distribution model will enable us to curate new releases composed of both previously performed and new works, showcasing the highest level of artistry for which our ensembles are well known,” says Parish. “Planning for the future would not be possible without acknowledging the historical excellence of music and its leadership at St. Olaf. The consistent thread connecting the history of St. Olaf Records to now has been the extraordinary talent of our student musicians, led by exceptional conductors and teachers who have built the choral and instrumental programs into the celebrated ensembles they are today.”

Although not all future releases will be made into CDs, the St. Olaf Records back catalog will still remain available through the St. Olaf Bookstore, PBS, and the growing library on Amazon. While select projects will be curated for distribution through St. Olaf Records, the extensive library  of past and future concert streams produced by St. Olaf will continue to highlight the breadth of our ensembles, offering our audiences the continued ability to listen to everything we produce.

“This partnership with Naxos, along with the expertise of our colleagues in Broadcast Media Services and Music Organizations, enables St. Olaf to continue widening access to all audiences without barriers to music at St. Olaf College,” says Parish.

Planning is currently underway on new releases, and more information will be shared in the future as recordings and release dates solidify. In the meantime, we invite all listeners and fans of St. Olaf Music to follow and subscribe to St. Olaf Records artists on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, or wherever they consume music.