Chris Roberts, former President of Universal Music Group International, Classics & Jazz, encourages listeners to appreciate the works of contemporary artists who combine genres. In an interview with Gramophone magazine, Mr. Roberts stressed that musical styles of the 1990s reflected the eclecticism in society, and that they could coexist with legitimacy alongside traditional classical and jazz music. He acknowledged the need to maintain the purity of the traditional repertoires, since they provide the foundation from which newer musical styles evolve. During Mr. Roberts’ tenure, Universal Music’s DG label, with its strong European tradition, maintained the conventional classical sound. Nevertheless, Chris Roberts noted some positive trends emanating from styles integrating the classical and jazz genres for a new generation of listeners.
Chris Roberts fulfilled many years of senior management responsibility with Universal Music and predecessor, PolyGram Classics & Jazz. At one time, he worked in the marketing division of PolyGram’s pop music division. A proponent of applying principles from marketing pop music to classical and jazz music, Chris Roberts advocated a model where the performance tours of classical artists synchronize with their recording releases to leverage marketing efforts more effectively. With a preference for diversity and an eclectic knowledge of classical music, jazz, pop, and music history, Chris Roberts viewed his role as the head of Universal Music’s Classic & Jazz Division as an opportunity to combine his interests and background.
Chris Roberts emphasizes that artistic quality can contribute tremendously to driving sales. He notes that a stagnant market can only be revived by artists who generate interest with their distinctive genre interpretations. To develop such talent, the record company and the artist must commit to working together, which results from nurturing the relationship through time and attention to a performer’s specific needs. While this involves a major investment of resources, focusing on artistic quality and the production of fewer releases will eventually result in a larger sales volume. In 2008, Chris Roberts created Universal Music Classical Management and Productions to achieve this vision.