Hungaroton Music Inc.


Modern Hungarian record publishing started in 1951 when the state established the Hungarian Record Company (MHV). The private record companies had first been owned by Hungarians and later by international companies and were then replaced by the monopoly state company. From then on, for nearly forty years, the only competition for the Hungarian company was from labels of the Socialist countries, above all Melodia, Supraphon and Eterna. Due to this situation, the outstanding artists of Hungarian classical and light music as well as the best actors recorded for Hungaroton a valuable archive of more than ten thousand titles.

From the mid sixties, export increased and the company changed its brand name from Qualiton to Hungaroton. Qualiton remained as the label for gipsy and operetta music products and from the seventies, for certain reasons of marketing policy, independent light music labels were started within the company: Pepita, Bravó, Krém.

Hungaroton's heyday was the seventies and eighties: the most popular pop singers and groups soon won the golden disc earned by those who sold over a hundred thousand records at the time. Due to high technical and artistic standards and relatively low prices, classical records were distributed in large numbers all over the world. Light music brought more money, but the foreign currency earned by the export of classical music was what covered the cost of importing raw materials.

The liberalization of the market in 1988 broke this momentum: recordings of Western light music and the world famous masters of classical music, which had been all but inaccessible, suddenly became available. Hungaroton's businesses slowed down and in addition to this, the company was forced to repay its bank loans for the building of the record factory and warehouse at Dorog. Hungaroton Record Company (MHV) almost collapsed under the pressure from these two financial outlays.

The company trading under this brand name was evetually wound up, but the publishing activities continued in new companies: from 1992 light music appeared under the brand name Hungaroton Gong, and from 1993 classical and folk music, literature, nursery tales and other genres were sold as Hungaroton Classic, each issued by independent limited companies. After lengthy preparations, Hungaroton was privatized in 1995. In order to protect the archive, the state recieved a golden share in the privatized company and thus Hungaroton Music Co. was established which in turn also owned part of the limited companies. The privatization of the latter took place at a time when the star of the two publishing companies was rising. The fact that Hungaroton stayed in Hungarian hands (as part of the Fotex group), spared the company the particular problems associated with multinational companies. However, it could not, of course, protect it from the general crisis which had come to the record market, arising above all from pirating and from the spread of the Internet.

The Classic and Gong companies were merged in 1998 and they continue trading today as Hungaroton Records Ltd. Last year the company issued 64 products, of which nearly 45 are classical recordings, 9 are light music, 7 contain entertaining music, 1 is literatary and 1 is a DVD cabaret. Most of the classical CDs are new recordings, the rest are re-issued versions of originals. In the case of light music, this ratio is reversed. The current catalogue contains well over a thousand classical and roughly half as many light music recordings. Hungaroton is a recognized label within the world market which has already started its activity in the realm of DVD publishing as well as online retailing via downloading and streaming.

In the classical music field Hungaroton concentrates on unrecorded and undiscovered music therefore the slogan of Hungaroton Classic has become "the label of discoveries". The other major direction for Hungaroton publications revolves around the outstanding works and composers of Hungarian Music History. (The present leading project in this area is the Bartók New Series: the second complete edition of Bartók's works - the first was was also released by Hungaroton.) The label has also begun to produce complete edition for Kodály recordings, while already you can find in the catalogue the remarkable serieses of Hubay, Lajtha and Weiner, as well. Classical recordings of Hungaroton often receive awards on the international market. Besides those presented by magazines such as Diapason, Le Monde de la Musique, Pizzicato etc. the company also recieved three major awards which were the MIDEM Classical Awards (for the Dohnányi Violin Concertos played by Vilmos Szabadi, conducted by Tamás Vásáry, for the first Bartók Complete Edition and for the first CD of the Bartók New Series conducted by Zoltán Kocsis).