Charles Petzold

Tallying the Most *Popular* Composers

January 13, 2011
New York, N.Y.

While NY Times music critic Anthony Tommasini struggles with the excruciatingly difficult job of selecting the ten best composers of all time — today Debussy makes the cut! — perhaps an easier approach is simply to listen to the voice of the people.

Under the assumption that the classical CD industry is "demand driven" we can easily determine the most popular composers by heading over to (the pre-eminent source of recorded classical music these days) and selecting the "Composers" tab. The web site conveniently displays 100 of the most popular composers with the number of CDs available for each.

Because it was easiest for me first to extract those composers with over 2,000 CDs available, I have left all those in the list and then added the next 4 to round it out to 20. The top rankers are:

I can't imagine anyone not quibbling with this list, but overall, it's not too bad.

And the sheer numbers demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that classical music is way more popular than so-called "popular" music!