Classical music strikes a chord with listeners as sales soar by 10%

Classical music was the fastest-growing genre in 2018, figures released by the UK’s recording industry body show.

Sales of classical CDs and streaming of classical music increased by more than 10% last year compared with the previous year, according to data collected by the Official Charts Company for BPI, the UK’s record labels association.

This compares with a 5.7% rise in music consumption across all genres during the same period.

More than 2.2 million classical albums were purchased, downloaded or streamed.

Katherine Jenkins
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Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (pictured below) were among the artists most listened to by classical music fans
Andrea Bocelli will perform two pieces at the royal wedding service

Almost 60% of classical music was bought in CD format, while streams of the genre increased by 42%, compared with a 33% rise for the UK music market as a whole.

Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma were among the leading artists on streaming services.

Downloads were the only format where demand for classical music fell, with digital albums declining by 13.4%, but this was better compared with the wider market which saw a fall of 26%.

Ginny Cooper, co-chair of BPI’s Classical Committee, said: “These figures reflect a very good year for classical music, underscoring a healthy rise in demand for the genre across key formats, which impressively outperformed the growth for the music market as a whole.”

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason
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British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding last May

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI and the Brit Awards and co-chair of BPI’s Classical Committee, said: “This is a dynamic moment in the history of classical music.”

He said the boost was in part down to “brilliant” new British artists such as cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason who performed at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding last May, pianist and composer Alexis Ffrench and saxophonist Jess Gillam “bursting through” to accompany revered icons such as Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel.

Mr Taylor said the popularity of soundtracks and new works by the likes of Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi and German-born British composer Max Richter, were broadening the appeal of classical among younger listeners on streaming services.

“We welcome the government’s proposals to review music education. Funding and promoting much stronger music education in all schools would deliver benefits across society going well beyond classical music,” he added.

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