X5 focuses on back catalogs of classical music and creating custom compilations with titles like “The 99 Darkest Pieces of Classical Music” or “The 50 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music” which, since being released in 2008, has made more than $2 million worldwide. Essentially, they buy up a truckload of song licenses at low-rates, package them into winning compilations and resell at a moderate markup. X5 has released more than 8,000 of these thematic albums — some by composer, mood, holiday, etc. — with most falling under the “classical” genre.
In 2010, X5 was the number two classical label in the U.S. with a 20% market share, and had 13 #1 Billboard Classical albums — more than any other label, save for Universal Music Group (with whom X5 is currently in talks).
The company has been able to make all that money through some simple tricks: The albums are inexpensive, the artwork is simple but striking, X5 distributes through all major music sites — iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. — and designs albums with a kind of “music SEO” in mind. “Think of the person that types ‘classical’ into the iTunes search box,” says Scott Ambrose Reilly, X5′s new U.S.-based CEO. “That’s the kind of person we’re trying to sell to.”