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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 16:54 UK Time, Monday, 14 September 2009

last_night.jpgJudging by the comments on the Radio 3 Messageboards, and the Twitter conversations, we're all feeling the same thing - that mixture of elation and deflation as another magnficent season of Proms comes to an end.

Everyone I've spoken to - friends and colleagues alike - thinks last Saturday's event was one of the best Last Nights ever. And conductor David Robertson has come in for universal praise.

During the coming week on the blog we'll be hearing from our regular bloggers, Proms Controller Roger Wright, Roly Taylor (Interactive Editor), and Abigail Appleton (Head of Speech Programming),  but we've also asked Matt Woodward, TV director of the Last Night to let us have his thoughts, as well as Oliver Macfarlane, series editor of the Proms TV coverage. Watch this space!

If you were following the Last Night on Twitter, you might like to know that you were involved in what was one of the most successful Twitter parties held by the BBC to date.

Some hard facts about this year's Proms:

  • 5% increase in overall attendances for largest ever Proms season
  • 87% average attendance for Royal Albert Hall concerts
  • 11% increase in number of people buying tickets for the first time
  • 32% increase in numbers of under-16s attending

    In the Interactive team we're still doing the sums, but the headlines are that the number of unique users and page impressions on /proms was up again - the ukulele pages were especially popular! 

    Visits to the Radio 3 blog doubled every month from June to August. So thanks for following us - do come back and come back often, as there will be lots more inside track on what we're doing at Radio 3 and BBC Classical Music TV in the weeks to come: the Radio 3 party does continue after the Proms - for example this week on Radio 3 you can hear more recordings from the 2009 Edinburgh Festival; Afternoon on 3 is running a series on music inspired by Philosophy; and The Essay invites writers to talk about Dr Johnson, and in fact tomorrow night I won't be missing David Crystal, who speculates on what The (original) Doctor would have thought of wikis and the web.    




    • Comment number 1.

      In terms of number crunching, Graeme, can the "5% increase in overall attendances for largest ever Proms season" be accounted for solely in terms that you had more 5% more concerts (and therefore audience capacity)?


    • Comment number 2.

      Well, kleines, it's still more people coming to music, isn't it? I'm particularly thrilled by the increasing numbers of young people attending, even if that's because there are more concerts directed at them ...
      BTW we're asking everyone what their Top Prom of the season was - what was yours?
      ;-) Graeme

    • Comment number 3.

      I liked the lot, Graeme, and I was particularly impressed by 'The Last Night', which, for the record, I watched with the extended family on television.


      My personal favourite was Prom 6 (the late night proms suit my working schedule), although, to be honest, we were spoilt for choice.


      Forgive my cynicism above, Graeme, but you are right: it is more people coming to music, unless, of course, they are just changing their musical preferences, Radio 2 listeners, for example). I brought a few youngsters along myself, Graeme, and they were impressed by the Darwin-inspired extravanzas and the ukulele pages:


      I noted their popularity online. So I think that you should regard the 2009 season as a triumph. Think up a few brainwaves for 2010, Graeme!


    • Comment number 4.

      Hello again kleines ...

      I was interested that you highlighted the Late Night Proms in your comments. I've just come back from a Proms de-brief meeting - I asked your question about the figures and it seems that they are adjusted to take account of extra concerts being added to the schedule. In other words, it's a genuine increase in the average attendance, and not a simple aggregation. The planners certainly don't want to give the impression that the figures always go up and up, because that would strain public credulity!

      However, I'm sure you'll be interested to know that there has been a gratifying average increase this year in the numbers attending Late Night concerts.

      I'm sure we'll come up with some more interesting ideas for next year. One of the exciting things about being part of the 'greater' Proms team is that the energy and passion flowing between the organisers and the audience is palpable. The same is true of Radio 3 generally, but the geographical and editorial diversity of the 24/7/365 offering makes it especially challenging to spread the good news about what we're doing in ways which impact on a daily basis. It's something we think about all the time...

    • Comment number 5.

      To Mr. Kay, greetings from the other side of the pond. I wasn't able to visit London this year, so I settled for listening to as many Proms archived radiocasts as I could via the BBC Proms webpage. Obviously we outside of the UK can't watch the videos, but getting the audio and selected intermission features is certainly marvelous enough.

      I have a question that's an offshoot of kleines c's inquiry. It's impressive that you saw increased Proms attendance, factoring in proportionally for the increased # of concerts. However, as we all know, the world economy is in the tank the worst in living memory (excepting those who were actually around in 1929). How does one account for the increased Proms attendance, since I would think that people would want to be careful about discretionary spending, such as arts and entertainment. Is it perhaps the "staycation" mentality, trying to find diversion closer to home rather than traveling hundreds/thousands of miles? We're concerned over here about orchestra attendance, and how many arts groups have suffered with the economic downturn.

    • Comment number 6.

      The press release says: "Average attendance for the 76 Royal Albert Hall concerts was 87%, on a par with recent years. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2009/09_september/11/proms.shtml

      But last year's (2008) press release says: "Average attendance for the 76 main evening concerts was 90% compared with 87% last year when there were 72 concerts." http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2008/09_september/12/proms.shtml

      If the Late Night Prom attendance was up, does that mean the main evening Proms figures were down? Not that it matters, except that it highlights the success of the Late Night Proms.

    • Comment number 7.

      I was thinking that, too, french frank. Thank you for clarifying the point. David Robertson mentioned this particular statistic in his excellent Last Night speech, Graeme, but it could be slightly misleading.

      As for bluestateprommer, you ask a good question. Promenading is obviously a cheap night out, cheaper than even a night out at the cinema (in central London), so in terms of value for money, it becomes quite an attractive option during a recession.

      Stalls seats in the Royal Albert Hall, in particular, can be quite expensive however, so it is interesting that sales kept up. As Graeme has better access to the figures, perhaps he could comment further. Is there a switch to classical music and 'high' culture during the recession, Graeme?

    • Comment number 8.

      Welcome bluestateprommer (also kleines and french frank)!

      First of all, ff, at the briefing I went to we were told specifically about the Late Night concerts so your interpretation of the figures is probably correct. It was also pointed out to us that the category averages do fluctuate from year to year - and that there is no way that the Proms would wish to massage the figures to give the impression that (as some people say with school exam results) the figures go up year after year after year. The Proms knows that its audience wouldn't believe this and concert-goers are also well aware that the success of a season isn't just measured by crude attendance figures.

      Regarding your question, bluestateprommer, I can't point to any specific evidence, however I have read a lot of informed comment in the 'trade' and general press to the effect that cultural pursuits are holding up well in the recession. Also, people are growing their own vegetables (I'm one of them!) and are rediscovering useful home-based crafts such as knitting (I'm not one of them ...)

      I think the point here is that attending theatre and the lyric arts isn't cheap: promenading does offer very cheap access to great music and I'm not surprised audiences are holding up. The other thing I personally have observed in recent years is that regular arts attenders with disposible income are trading down in levels of ticket pricing. There are a lot of greybeards in the Arena these days!

    • Comment number 9.

      Thanks for the reply, Graeme. Of course, each season is distinct and can't be expected to deliver the same results year after year, still less year-on-year increases. It would be terrible if programmes were being chosen solely because they were likely to be sell-outs and keep the attendance percentages up.

      It does sound as if the Proms Plus and - particularly - the family events have had a knock-on effect in encouraging new/young audiences. Way to go! (as they say) :o)

    • Comment number 10.

      To Mr. Kay, thanks for the kind response (and hopefully this comment doesn't get lost in the lateness of the reply). It does make sense that people would still try to attend the Proms, albeit if in a more fiscally tight way, by Promming in the Arena or the Gallery, trading "down" financially from regular seats, as you noted.

      OTOH, it was nice to hear on several Proms radiocasts the words "in a nearly packed" or "in a virtually packed" Royal Albert Hall in this economic climate, such as with Andris Nelsons and the CBSO. In that case, however, the buzz attending to Nelsons and his 1st season in Birmingham probably was a major factor. I found an article by Christopher Morley from the Birmingham Post that spoke of a bunch of CBSO "groupies" taking a bus to London for that Prom. Likewise, Gergiev is his own draw, with probably any orchestra, and the same "packed Albert Hall" comment came across in his LSO Prom.

      Full audiences didn't always show, of course. I'm thinking of the Prom which had Moeran's Symphony in g for the 1st time in 70 some years at the Proms, a perfect example of both "accessible" but "off the beaten path" repertoire that should be catnip for Proms audiences. However, from the messageboard, there were evidently swathes of empty seats. It's kind of ironic that some audiences want more "audience friendly" and "not too modern" music that's "nice". Then such works get offered, and those people don't show up.

      I guess one advantage there is that BBC funding from the license fee (what little I understand of it) helps to cushion the financial blows to the Proms to some extent, though the marketing people obviously still need to work full time and Roger Wright and friends still have to program some crowd-pleasers among the more offbeat fare. Here in the US, we rely much more on private funding, as government support for the arts is fairly minimal at best, and with the stock market tanking and decimating the value of orchestra endowments, the climate is even more fraught now.


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