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The Specialist Classical Chart Podcast is back - this time for good!

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Andrew Caspari Andrew Caspari | 16:45 PM, Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Otto Klemperer with the New Philharmonic Orchestra

One of my recent joys working on our interactive services for BBC Radio has been receiving our monthly figures for downloads and podcasts from our site. Last month listeners successfully put 14.8 million downloads on their PCs or mobile devices.

That's up from 9.8 million in July last year. One of the reasons for the increase is the boost in the number of speech programmes we can now offer. The recent release of 500 editions of Desert Island Discs and the archive of the Reith Lectures has proved very popular. Podcasting is a great way to build up your own collection of programmes to enjoy whenever and wherever you want!

And although we have done great things with speech content, it's not been so straightforward with music in podcasts. So I'm really pleased to say that, as of today, we're bringing back a podcast which should appeal especially to classical music fans.

Although to date we've released many podcasts containing the speech content of classical music programmes, such as Composer of the Week, we've not been able to include longer extracts of classical music. That's because we don't have the rights or the permission to do this, and the BBC has been wary of doing anything that might adversely affect the commercial classical music industry.

But now, something has changed. Working with the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) earlier this year we tested a podcast of the segment of Radio 3 Breakfast that covers the Specialist Classical Music Chart every Tuesday morning. This includes a number of excerpts of music from the chart, each of which can be up to 9 minutes long.

The audience seemed to like the offer.

What's more, any fears that it might discourage people from buying classical music or listening to live radio proved unfounded. In fact nearly 25% of those who listened to the podcast said they were inspired to listen to more live radio, whilst 70% said they were listening to the same amount (eDigital Research for the BBC). 80% of listeners said the podcast had introduced them to music they had not heard before. Good news for the music industry came with the finding that 25% of listeners to the chart podcast had purchased classical music as a result. The BPI's classical committee is pleased with the outcome, saying the podcast supports the work to "...obtain a wider audience for the specialist classical chart and for serious classical music in general". So, all in all the trial was a success.

Now the BBC Trust has agreed to a change in the Radio 3 service licence to allow the Specialist Classical Music Chart to become a permanent offer from the BBC. The podcast is back from today, and you can download it here. As a distinctly average guitarist, I'm delighted that a classical guitar release is top of the chart at the moment, so I hope an extract of the number one is included.

Andrew Caspari is BBC Head of Speech Radio and Classical Music, Interactive

  • The picture (from 1970) shows "Otto Klemperer who celebrated the bi-centenary of Beethoven's birth by conducting his nine symphonies in sequence with the New Philharmonic Orchestra".


  • Comment number 1.

    Well, of course the record industry doesn't mind you podcasting longer extracts. The specialist charts are a marketing device and Radio 3 is promoting their best-sellers for them and ensuring higher sales. Why would they mind about that?

    ["Good news for the music industry came with the finding that 25% of listeners to the chart podcast had purchased classical music as a result."]

    Well, wasn't that the whole idea of introducing the Charts Show - Radio 3 used to have higher artistic principles than acting as a commercial sales assistant.

  • Comment number 2.

    I couldn't agree more. There's a painful irony in Radio 3 expressing such pride in a 'service' that only demonstrates what a pale shadow it has become of its former self. Isn't it time the BBC Trust took a proper view of the ever narrowing gap between Radio 3 and Classic FM, and reasserted what is involved in being a public service?

  • Comment number 3.

    I couldn't agree less!! I'm delighted and am going to subscribe to the podcast right now. I have a limited budget to spend on music and so tend to stick to composers that I know and love in order to expand my collection. I cannot listen to the radio in the morning so the podcast is the perfect way for me to discover new composers. I find it quite depressing when I go to local classical concerts (much fewer in number than 20 years ago) and organ proms to see the tiny minority of audience members below the age of 50. I hope the podcast might help Radio 3 reach more young people - we need audiences to grow not shrink.

  • Comment number 4.


    You disregard the point of principle. Friends of Radio 3 urged the Trust several years ago to use classical podcasts as a way of reaching, for example, younger audiences. Uncovering composers and works which didn't have the benefit of available commercial recording would be an example of what could be recorded by BBC orchestras without rivalling commercial products. The Trust turned the idea down and said no excerpts longer than 2 minutes could be podcasted. Now the BBC is permitted by the industry to extend the length of excerpts to 9 minutes as long as they come from recordings currently in the top 20 - a marketing tool of the record industry by which it promotes its latest products. Classical music isn't helped by turning it into a charts industry.

  • Comment number 5.

    The charts (all charts) have been used as marketing tools since they began - I simply don't see what the difference (problem) is. I'm glad this podcast is back. I enjoy classical music (both R3 and Classic FM) but I seldom buy it. If I hear anything on the upcoming podcasts that inspire me to go and actually purchase something, so what?

  • Comment number 6.

    Curious sounds of a hissy fit coming from the Ivory Tower. How awful that R3 should reflect or encourage an interest in Classical Music that interests people enough to go out and buy it. Tut tut and dear me. And of course there is absolutely no new or contemporary music to balance it on R3, no premiere performances, ever. No lunchtime concerts from the Wigmore. No early music. No Lucie Duran...

  • Comment number 7.

    You don't invalidate the argument by calling it a 'hissy fit'! :o) The only classical podcast allowed is one that has the latest chart-toppers on it. Classical music doesn't work in the same way as the pop charts. Most of the music (and best performances) are available in the back-catalogue, but Radio 3 is 'allowed' these extra long extracts because it helps the industry to sell its latest releases. A podcast including back-catalogue recordings, chosen by R3 on grounds of performance excellence, would be more in line with the station's remit to promote the best of classical music.

  • Comment number 8.

    I welcome the return of the podcast - the Classical Chart is good news for "Breakfast" and for classical music in general. If it brings in more listeners to the station and boosts the sales of classical music then, in my view, it is a win/win situation. As has been stated in post 6 (above) there is plenty elsewhere on Radio 3 for the more "serious" listener.

    Who knows - if someone's interest in a particular composer or genrer is tickled by the podcast they may go on to explore more of that repertoire.


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