Varese Sarabande Records celebrates 30 years


In May, when Varese Sarabande's vp of soundtracks Robert Townson threw a party to commemorate the release of his beloved music label's quadruple-disc set, "Varese Sarabande: A 30th Anniversary Celebration," even he had no idea how strong the turnout would be. The event proved a testament to how revered the label is, thanks to the presence of about two dozen composers, including Cliff Eidelman, Jan Kaczmarek and Marco Beltrami.

"There was a line out of the door and around the block of fans who wanted to get their CDs and (memorabilia) autographed," recalls Beltrami. "It was strange, in a way, to have so many great composers in a room together."

With legends like Lalo Schifrin ("Mission: Impossible") and Richard M. Sherman ("Mary Poppins") also on hand, the event was so big that Cinemagic, the XM Satellite Radio film music station, devoted its entire weekend's playlist to the label's music.

A diligent and passionate producer, Townson averages 55-60 albums per year. In the nearly 20 years since he took over production of Varese, he has released more than 930 albums, including everything from up-to-the-minute releases like John Powell's score for "Hancock" to Erich Korngold's Oscar-winning score for the 1938 Errol Flynn classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood."

"In reality, many of our releases don't sell enough albums to keep our heads above water, but enough break out from the pack to cover their comrades. The overall plan is to keep it artistically worthwhile. It's not a goal to make money, it's more of a goal not to lose money. It's an enormous challenge."

Indeed, with the recording industry in the throes of what some consider its death rattle, Varese Sarabande continues to defy the odds. "Things may be difficult with the state of the music industry and CD sales, but the enthusiasm for the film music art form is possibly at an all-time high," Townson says.