teenager piano

Report shows spike in young people listening to classical

The BPI, Deezer and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra joined forces for new report revealing under 35s new interest in classical and orchestral music, especially during lockdown.

Maya Radcliffe
  • By Maya Radcliffe
  • 18 Aug 2020
  • min read

A new collaborative report has revealed that classical music streams have risen among young fans. The trend is said to have accelerated during lockdown.

The joint report from Deezer, BPI and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra shows 18-25 year olds accounted for a third (34 percent) of Classical streamers worldwide in the last 12 months.

RPO’s research found that 35 per cent of respondents under 35 felt listening to orchestral music during lockdown had helped them relax and maintain a sense of calmness and wellbeing. A further 18 per cent said the genre had lifted their spirits in isolation.  

Oscar-winning film composer Alexandre Desplat commented on the findings: ‘It’s heartening that the appeal of classical music is clearly expanding and connecting with a broader and younger audience. The ease of discovery and connectivity through streaming must be playing its part, but so too is the global reach and power of film soundtracks, which draw such inspiration from classical composition.’  

Renowned composer Max Richter said: ‘It is wonderful that new audiences are coming to classical music during this time of anxiety. Streaming offers listeners the chance simply to follow their enthusiasms through the musical universe without any boundaries, and I’m really happy to hear that many people are turning to classical music for the first time. As well as being a historical art form, classical music is also part of what is happening now and it is great to see more people embracing it.’ 

The demand for Classical during the pandemic can be linked to a new generation of young talent, like 22-year-old saxophonist Jess Gillam and 21-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. The 33-year-old pianist Khatia Buniatishvili also saw a huge 35 percent stream spike, with 21 per cent of plays by under 25’s. Sheku’s streams rose by 64 percent when lockdown began on 23 March.

Younger artists are also bringing their own fresh take on Classical music. Classical Goes Pop, a collection of pop songs reimagined into Classical recordings, was the most streamed playlist by younger fans in the last year. The cover of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect by 2CELLOS was the top played track.   

The report also looked further into the profile of Classical music users. Overall, they have a more eclectic taste and stream more music compared to other fans. 

Classical listeners on Deezer stream 4.4 percent more than average streamers, while listening to 38 defined genres of music on average – compared to fans of other genres. Classical fans are also more likely to be male.

Classical listeners also stream more albums in full than fans of other genres. Despite previous research showing that album consumption is declining, just over a quarter (27 percent) of the clicks made by classical fans in May 2020 were specifically on albums. This lies in stark comparison to just five percent of clicks on albums by pop fans. 

Yannick Fage, classical music editor, Deezer, commented: ‘Classical music is often associated with older people, but it’s exciting to see how mood listening and a new generation of talent can flip this on its head. Classical is a diverse and rich genre and working with the BPI and the RPO has given us the opportunity to dispel some of the typical stereotypes associated with it. Our data shows how streaming is helping to create a broader fanbase for Classical music and artists. I highly recommend people of all ages to explore Classical if they haven’t already!’

Chris Green, director of research, BPI, said: ‘This study brings into sharp focus a gradual trend that we have been seeing, and to which the lockdown is giving added impetus, of Classical appealing to a younger audience. Last year the BPI reported a 42 per cent annual rise in UK streams of Classical music, driven in part by exciting new talent such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Alexis Ffrench and Jess Gillam. Streaming is providing a gateway for younger music consumers to discover Classical in all its delights, ranging from Mozart’s symphonic masterpieces to Ludovico Einaudi’s more contemporary compositions.’

James Williams, managing director, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, adds: ‘The lockdown era broke the consumer’s connection with live concert hall experiences, which is the heartbeat of the music industry. Despite the enormous challenges, music lovers adapted during lockdown. At a time of crisis and anxiety, music has become more important to people as an expression of hope, giving some the strength to endure and for others serving as a tonic to support their mental health and wellbeing. As attention turns to rebuilding the country, music will continue to have a vital role to play to help people re-engage with society, friends and the work routine – whether this be listening to recorded music, attending a concert or, indeed, the joy of mastering a musical instrument.’