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

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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".

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