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Classical music saw a boom in listening last year

By | Published on Monday 14 January 2019

Classical music

Classical music fans in the UK are starting to get on board with streaming, contributing to something of a boom for the genre in 2018.

Record industry trade group BPI and the Official Charts Company have released figures showing that sales and streams of classical music grew by 10.2% in the UK last year, ahead of a 5.7% uplift for music as a whole. Streaming alone was up by 42%, so that streams now account for 25.2% of total classical consumption. CD sales also rose 6.9%, mainly because of fans seeking better audio quality and special edition boxsets, reckons the BPI. All of which offset a 13.6% decline in classical download sales.

Classical music consumption on streaming services is still well behind music overall, of course, where 63.6% of listening now takes place on subscription platforms. Aficionados of classical music have long been slow to get on board with digital music, in a large part because digital services have not been great at offering access in ways many would prefer. In particular, metadata for classical tracks is often messy and missing key information.

The BPI highlighted these issues in its stats pack, saying that without being able to search by ‘composer’, ‘conductor’, ‘orchestra’, or ‘label’, many classical fans will remain turned off by digital services. To that end, recognising different methods of consumption, rather than offering a one size fits all approach, could further boost classical listening.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for sustainable growth if the new digital platforms continue to improve the profile and searchability of classical music, while labels continue to nurture new talent and appeal to collectors through beautifully curated CDs and boxsets”, says BPI boss Geoff Taylor.

“This is a dynamic moment in the history of Classical music”, he adds, “with brilliant new artists such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Alexis Ffrench and Jess Gillam bursting through to accompany revered icons such as Andrea Bocelli, Yo-Yo Ma and Bryn Terfel. The popularity of soundtracks and new works by composers such as Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter are broadening the appeal of classical among younger listeners on streaming services”.

Co-Chair of BPI’s Classical Committee, Ginny Cooper, chips in: “These figures reflect a very good year for classical music, underscoring a healthy rise in demand for the genre across key formats, which impressively outperformed the growth for the music market as a whole”.

“It is encouraging to see CD and streams thrive alongside each other”, she continues, “showing that collectability and discovery are simply different sides of the same coin, and wonderful too to witness an exciting new generation of diverse, music talent breaking through to pick up the baton and engage with younger audiences”.

The most popular classical album of 2018 was ‘Si’, by Ed Sheeran fave Andrea Bocelli. On streaming services, the most popular artist was Ludovico Einaudi, who accounts for one in twelve of all classical streams.