Mozart goes mainstream as younger fans hit play on Classical

  • The BPI, Deezer and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra join forces for new report revealing under 35s new interest in Classical and orchestral music, especially in lockdown
  • Young Classical talent and cross-over playlists like ‘Classical Goes Pop” appeal to a new generation of classical fans
  • Appeal in Classical also linked to mood listening during the pandemic – ‘feel good’, ‘calm’ and ‘sleep’
  • Classical artists voice their support for the findings including Max Richter, Ray Chen, Jess Gillam, Alexandre Desplat and Camille & Julie

    Classical music streams have continued to rise among young fans, with lockdown accelerating the trend, a new collaborative report has revealed. Global music streaming service, Deezer, UK record labels association, the BPI, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) have come together to see if one of the world’s oldest genres is now finding a broader audience.

    The joint report, which uses official streaming data and UK consumer market research, shows 18-25 year olds accounted for a third (34%) of Classical streamers worldwide in the last 12 months. A significant 37 per cent of UK Classical music fans on Deezer were also under 35 years old, with global streams from this age group rising by 17 per cent in the last year.

    Similarly, nationwide research from the RPO found that under 35s were the most likely age group to listen to orchestral music during lockdown – almost three in five (59%) compared with a national average of 51 per cent. This is in contrast to BPI’s consumer purchasing data from a decade ago, showing just a tenth (10%) of listeners were under 30, with well over two-thirds (70%) over the age of 50.

    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.”

    Classical’s lockdown boom

    Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown, Classical streams by Millennial and Gen Z listeners continued to rise. Between February – April 2020, Deezer’s global plays of Classical music among 18-25 year olds grew by 11 per cent.

    RPO’s research found 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.

    This could explain why as lockdown hit in March, both modern Classical artists and traditional composers experienced global stream boosts. Particularly, streams of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach grew in popularity, while streams of female pianists soared.

    Renowned composer Max Richter commented: “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 RPO’s research results also suggested under 35s were the most likely group intending to support arts organisations once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, to help them make up for lost income (64% compared to a national average of 43%).

    Violinists Camille and Julie commented: “Classical music has inspired so many people over centuries, and at this time in history it seems more important and relevant than ever before as it brings people together. There’s no barriers with classical music and its benefits are limitless – it can inspire, uplift or help us to just chill out – something a lot of us need right now. We absolutely love seeing people of all ages attending our concerts and listening to our music online, but we’re particularly happy to see young people getting more and more into classical music as they become the future fans and advocates for the genre we love.”

    A new generation of talent

    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 per cent stream spike, with 21 per cent of plays by under 25’s. Sheku’s streams rose by 64 per cent when Boris Johnson announced lockdown on March 23rd.

    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 Classical playlist by younger fans in the last year. The cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ by 2CELLOS was the top played track.

    31 year old Violinist, Ray Chen, commented on the trend of young people listening to Classical: “Classical music has always been a journey to be enjoyed at a pace that frankly, our previous lives could not offer in terms of time and mental space. The pandemic has flipped our lifestyles, tastes and habits: the things we used to do to relax are no longer the same. As a young person in classical music, it might seem an anomaly to many out there – but I’ve seen a growing number of young people becoming emotionally invested in this beautiful music.”

    Changing the mood

    ‘Mood listening’, where fans select music to match their emotion, activity or situation they’re in, is also broadening the appeal of Classical. The playlist ‘Feel Good Classical’, featuring artists like Jess Gillam and Lang Lang, soared in popularity as lockdown took hold. It peaked on 19th March, when its UK streams rose dramatically by 424 per cent compared to the week prior. Over a third of its listeners (36%) were aged under 35.

    As relaxation became key in lockdown, Deezer’s ‘Calm Piano’ continued to be the genre’s most popular playlist in March, particularly in London. The number of under 35 users of the streaming service’s popular ‘Classical For Sleep’ playlist rose by another 10 per cent, to over half (52%). Streams of this playlist also spiked by a huge 284 per cent across all age groups during this time.

    Saxophonist Jess Gillam commented: “To know that an increasing number of young people are engaging with Classical music is absolutely brilliant news! In times of distress and desperation, music can inspire, unite and transport and I think this trend outlines the magic of the art form. Classical music is a genre that listeners can sometimes approach with certain preconceptions and I think, as humans, our brains are wired for categorisation. With music, I feel it is impossible to place something in a category, genre or box that can sufficiently provide us with enough information about what on earth the music may sound like, the emotions it may evoke or even the style of composition – the immeasurable entity we call ‘music’ is inexplicable, something so powerful and evocative: beyond categorisation.”

    Defining the Classical profile

    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 per cent more than average streamers, while listening to 38 defined genres of music on average – compared to fans of other genres, such as Rock, who on average listen to 15 genres. Classical fans are also more likely to be male. In the last year, 71 per cent of both worldwide and UK Classical streamers were male.

    Classical listeners also show a greater appreciation of the album, streaming more albums in full than fans of other genres. Despite previous research showing that album consumption is declining, just over a quarter (27%) of the clicks made by classical fans in May 2020 were specifically on albums. This lies in stark comparison to just 5 per cent of clicks on albums by pop fans.

    Yannick Fage, Deezer’s Classical Music Editor, who is responsible for 36 Classical playlists on its dedicated channel, 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, BPI’s Director of Research, 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 of the 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.”

    Top of the charts

    The Deezer, BPI and RPO ‘The Classical Revival in 2020’ report also outlines the top streamed classical artists and composers this year on Deezer, across the UK and the world. The Italian composer, Ludovico Einaudi, was the artist that fans hit play on the most, taking the top spot worldwide, in the UK and Germany.

    The top performing artists and composers of 2020 worldwide:
    1. Ludovico Einaudi
    2. Yann Tiersen
    3. Andrea Bocelli
    4. Ramin Djawadi
    5. John Williams
    6. Max Richter
    7. Lindsey Stirling
    8. Luciano Pavarotti
    9. Sofiane Pamart
    10. Ólafur Arnalds

    The top performing artists and composers of 2020 in the UK:
    1. Ludovico Einaudi
    2. John Williams
    3. Andrea Bocelli
    4. Max Richter
    5. Luciano Pavarotti
    6. Ólafur Arnalds
    7. Ramin Djawadi
    8. Lindsey Stirling
    9. Gavin Greenaway
    10. Yann Tiersen

    The report is available to download here. You can also discover all of the classical playlists on Deezer’s dedicated Classical Channel.