Historic Greek music label subject of takeover May 8, 2007Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
Loss of independence at Lyra, home to wealth of important Greek music, raises concerns
Celebrated Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis released landmark works at Lyra
Local music industry insiders were well aware of the problems faced by the Greek label Lyra, home to a wealth of landmark releases, as well as the efforts made by its head, Panos Maravelias, to keep the country’s oldest and largest independent label afloat. Lyra’s emergence was tied to an artistic boom in Greek music thanks to the label’s inspired yet often risky releases. Despite those efforts, Lyra had been swimming in the red for quite some time. The news of the label’s acquisition by Costas Yiannikos, the owner of Legend, a record label that is a member of the Modern Times Group of Companies, has prompted further unrest in an already alarmed local music industry.
The concern over this change has less to do with the fact that it signals the end of an era and more to do with the heightened uncertainty that it has sparked about the industry’s future.
Over the years, Lyra amassed an extraordinary catalog of releases, many of them pioneering, such Mikis Theodorakis’s “Epitaphios,” works by Manos Hadjidakis and Nana Mouskouri, Dionysis Savvopoulos’s “Ballos,” Nikos Xydakis’s “Ekdikisi tis Gyftias,” and Lena Platonos’s “Sabotage.” Lyra’s change of ownership raises various concerns, including the label’s induction into a vast group of firms linked with Yiannikos and the artistic repercussions this could generate for the previously independent label.
Yiannikos, who is active in publishing, runs several Athenian theaters and holds a large stake in the private TV channel Alter, has, more recently, gained control of works by major high-caliber artists, such as Theodorakis, Stavros Xarhakos, Maria Farandouri and Thanos Mikroutsikos. Their work stands to gain exposure through the entrepreneur’s media, even if it occurs alongside trashy pop shows.
Critics of Lyra’s takeover expect an avalanche of compilations which would confine listeners to just glimpses of works. Cultural imperialism, regardless of the capabilities of the entrepreneur behind his or her widespread holdings, is a concern.
Quite a few local acts have already experienced the highly fabricated adventures of vertical integration at the local record label Heaven, which is run by the TV station Antenna and host to a number of reality shows with music at their core.
Amid the changing scene, some industry officials remain less concerned. They contend that Lyra’s acquisition by a local player is a far better outcome than what a takeover by a multinational with less understanding of local music would have been.
Lyra, which was founded in 1964 by Alekos Patsifas and Kyriakos Maravelias, offered young and creative artists an outlet for expression that was missing. From the beginning, the label invested in musical innovation. The label heads were surrounded by members of the local intelligentsia who assisted Lyra in its artistic decisions. This led to album releases of poetry recitals by artists such as Costas Varnalis, Odysseas Elytis, Giorgos Seferis and Andreas Embeirikos.
Patsifas knew how to sense and pick enlightened individuals as associates for the Lyra label. One of these was Tassos Falireas, who contributed greatly to the label. Highlighting Lyra’s all-around artistic excellence, which included inspired artwork for album covers by prominent artists, various rival firms made attempts to imitate it.
Lyra’s woes began to surface in the 1980,s when the stature of vocalists began to overshadow that of songwriters in Greek music. Generous offers by rival labels prompted artist transfers to competitor firms.
Patsifas’s death in 1981 and that of Maravelias a decade later came as major strikes to Lyra’s foundations. The changing musical tastes that ensued in the local music market, or pop and trash-pop’s complete domination, delivered the final blow to this historic Greek label’s independence.