82% of British adults say classical music should make changes to have a future

Young people call for changes to the genre to make it more ethnically diverse and less elitist

The over 55s calls are for better education, and not to dumb it down

The vast majority of the British public say that classical music can be made more relevant in order for it to have a future, according to new research commissioned by Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham. In a survey of over 2,000 UK adults, 82% were able to cite one or more changes that might be made that would improve the current situation, with just 7% of those surveyed saying that there were no challenges that faced classical music today.

As the question of the relevance of classical music in modern society continues, the latest findings hint at the potential size of the classical music audience that might exist in the UK, and the barriers in place that are preventing them from attending.

Of particular interest was the difference in opinion among age groups. People aged under 25 were the most likely to say that changes to the format and the genre itself needed to be made. 37% of U25s said that the elitist language and traditions that make it appear aloof need to end. Similarly, 31% felt that more needed to be done so that it had greater appeal to a multi-cultural society and ethnic minorities – a proportion that steadily decreased as age increased.

By contrast, over 55s were the most likely to call for better education about classical music in schools, and not to dumb the format down. Half of this age group (50%) felt that music should feature more prominently in the school curriculum, with 55% saying more young people need to be inspired to learn a classical instrument and experience playing music. With this, almost one in six (16%) felt classical music is too often dumbed down (e.g. the Doctor Who Prom) – double the proportion of U25s (8%).

The research found some pointers for venues and promoters of classical music. 40% of UK adults felt concerts need to be performed outside stuffy concert halls and in more everyday places. Similarly, almost a third of survey respondents (32%) felt it was up to the venues to encourage more young people to go to a concert.

Richard Hawley, Head of Artistic Programming at THSH commented: “Far from being a mainstream nonentity, people do really seem to care about classical music having a future, which is encouraging. There are changes that need to be made, and we at THSH believe now is the time to take risks and be brave. We take all of our audience’s opinions seriously, but particularly those of people under 25 who’ll be running the show before we know it.

“Our next three concerts feature the world’s leading orchestra of teenagers, an exclusively BME orchestra to open the 17/18 Orchestral season, and an orchestra performing Beethoven’s Fifth in a car park - all part of a wider effort with our programming and audience engagement to make classical music relevant for the 21st century, without making any compromises on the world-class levels of quality that our audiences expect.”


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