From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

Now a story about young entrepreneurs in classical music. These days, classical recordings are not selling well. Labels are folding, and even well-established ensembles are losing their contracts. And so a group of young composers and musicians has banded together - much like a number of rock groups - to release albums themselves. The label is called New Amsterdam Records. It has just released its third CD. Tom Vitale reports from New York City.

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TOM VITALE: Downtown, in the living room of a Greenwich Village duplex, NOW Ensemble - a chamber-music group of players and composers from Yale and Juilliard - auditions a new bass player.

Unidentified Man #1: So how are you doing? Just waiting for you.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, I'm just kind of learning it, so...

Unidentified Man #1: (unintelligible)

Unidentified Man #2: I think we can do this tempo for now.

Unidentified Man #1: Trying to get my, get a good sound.

Unidentified Woman #1: Sounds good. All right.

Unidentified Man #1: Ready?

Unidentified Woman: Yup.

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VITALE: Uptown, way uptown at the other end of Manhattan, in a third-floor Washington Heights apartment, the duo that calls itself itsnotyouitsme improvises a piece that fills a tiny spare room with a huge sound.

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VITALE: What these sonically very different groups have in common is that they're all friends. They're all in their 20s. They all jam together. And their first records are on the New Amsterdam label, founded by three graduates of the Yale School of Music: Bill Brittelle, Sara Kirkland Snider and Judd Greenstein.

Mr. JUDD GREENSTEIN (Founder, New Amsterdam Record Label): There's really not a place for young ensembles, young composers, young performers to have that first record, unlike in the pop music world, where being 27, 28 years old, 30 years old, you're old. In this, you're like super-young. You're like an infant.

VITALE: All of the musicians in what Greenstein describes as a community are classically trained. But Greenstein is writing his dissertation at Princeton on hip-hop. He says the New Amsterdam's musicians want to bring all the music that's part of their lives into their compositions.

Mr. GREENSTEIN: Sort of opening up the possibilities of our music to all of our influences, all of the stuff that's on our iPod, all of the stuff that's on our computer, all the stuff that's in our backgrounds, while still maintaining a foothold in the classical tradition.

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Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) (unintelligible)

VITALE: Composer Bill Brittelle, whose CD "Mohair Time Warp" has just been released by New Amsterdam, is another co-founder of the label. Brittelle studied composition at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and sang in a rock band, The Blondes.

Mr. BILL BRITTELLE (Composer, Musician): I don't personally think about what I do coming from a classical tradition. I think of the classical music that I've studied and my training as tools to do whatever I want to do, and the ability to digest things and compose for the kind instruments that I want to compose for and have strings and horns and all this stuff, and really write for electric guitar and not just have power chords.

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Mr. JUSTIN DAVIDSON (Music Critic, New York Magazine): They're part of this generation of people who get out of music school with all of these incredible skills and all of this culture and all of this creativity, fully aware that nobody is going to hand them a career.

VITALE: Justin Davidson is a music critic for New York Magazine.

Mr. DAVIDSON: There's no superstructure of an established music industry that is going to pay any attention to these people, because they're not even paying attention to the much more established, mainstream conductors and violinists and orchestras. The ability to get noticed by having some record executive take an interest in you and record you, you know, that's really practically a thing of the past. If you want to make recordings, you've really got to do it yourself.

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VITALE: New Amsterdam is not the first group of new music entrepreneurs to build their own label and performance circuit. The collective known as Bang on a Can did the same thing 20 years ago, when they, too, were all in their 20s. But critic Justin Davidson says those composers in Bang on a Can had more in common musically with each other.

Mr. DAVIDSON: The interesting thing about this group of people, and New Amsterdam, is the real lack of interest in anything that you could call aesthetic categories or rules about what does and doesn't belong in their sphere of influence. You never know what you're going to hear when you go to concert or when you go to their Web site or what's going to come out of the CD.

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VITALE: Guitarist Grey McMurray and electric violinist Caleb Burhans are itsnotyouitsme - two 27-year-olds who met at the Eastman School of music. Burhans said they sent their first record, "Walled Gardens" to Bang on a Can's Canteloupe label and got no reply. So they signed with New Amsterdam.

Mr. CALEB BURHANS (Composer, Musician): Especially at this stage, with big record companies going down and downloads being the thing, it really felt like the right time for us to just stick to a local grassroots type thing with our friends and start this NOW Manhattan.

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VITALE: With so much new music available now, label co-founder Bill Brittelle says the struggle for the New Amsterdam community is different than it was for previous generations of new music composers.

Mr. BRITTELLE: They were fighting for the right to include popular music in what they were doing. You don't run into people anymore our age that are like, well, you know, popular music is not valid. I think for us, our battle against apathy. Now anybody can print a CD. You know, there's millions of everything. And now it's just, how do we get this out there and get it heard?

VITALE: You won't find New Amsterdam's music in your local record store. The founders are counting on listeners to go to and purchase downloads or order CDs. Judd Greenstein says New Amsterdam has sold around 500 since January - not enough to pay anyone a salary. But Greenstein says he's not discouraged.

Mr. GREENSTEIN: It's exciting for the long term, because it means that in a few years - and, you know, we're all young, so we can say things like in a few years, and we'll still be young - we're going to have this infrastructure built that will hopefully support the next generation and ourselves, so that people don't have to keep reinventing the wheel and thinking about, you know, how can I be myself?

VITALE: The founders of New Amsterdam Records say it's a difficult world in which to justify making a new CD, unless it's amazing. And that is their motto.

For NPR News, I'm Tom Vitale, in New York.

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