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Big upswing for classical sales and downloads

Alan Davey

Controller, BBC Radio 3

New figures from the BPI show increases for physical music sales and streaming of classical music of more than 10% last year, outperforming the wider recorded music market, which itself showed a healthy increase of 5.7%.

This is great news, especially when you dig deeper and it emerges that young artists who have been supported by the BBC through BBC Young Musicians such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Jess Gillam have played a key part in this online growth, as well as more established names such as Andrea Bocelli, Yo-Yo Ma, and the broadening ambient appeal of Max Richter.

The great thing about younger audiences is that their taste is not rigidly defined by genre. They discover music from all kinds of sources, and their ears are not put off by something that is unfamiliar. Quality and authenticity are important, if you ask any 20-ear-old what music they like, they’ll give you a mix of stuff which feeds their curiosity and satisfies a range of moods. On BBC Radio 3, in our recurring series Unclassifed, we offer an entire programme dedicated to reflecting the increasingly popular ambient and neo-classical music which is not definable by genre.

Platforms such as BBC Sounds, Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and YouTube allow serendipitous discovery of the new and unfamiliar – and as the metadata – the information that attaches to a piece of recorded music and allows digital machines to find and play it – gets better, classical music is becoming discoverable in new ways. On BBC Sounds, bespoke Radio 3 classical music mixes are offered, attracting audiences of all ages to interesting things they haven’t heard before, as well as things like our In Tune Mixtapes and new programmes such as Classical Fix.

And let’s not forget the role of linear radio in discovery – you can switch on Radio 3 at any point of the day and you may hear some new bit of classical music you didn’t know existed – or you may hear something you know and can enjoy with the familiarity increasing understanding brings.

So – I hope these figures show how classical music can use new and established platforms to offer a rich vein of musical discovery for those who don’t yet know that classical music works for them and can work for anyone who appreciates good music and good musicians. And at BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Proms, as well as the work of the BBC Orchestras and Choirs, it is our job to work with the industry and to continue making great discoveries possible.

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