(c) Andy Paradise

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) today publishes its annual report on engagement with orchestral music. ‘A time to look forward: Trends of engagement with orchestral music draws on research carried out over a 12 month period, provides an overview of public attitudes and involvement with orchestral music and benchmarks 2022 results with previous years - with an additional sample of respondents from ethnic minority groups, rural communities, and low-income families.

The report highlights the stark differences between life pre-pandemic and today’s ‘new normal’, and the bearing this has had on people’s terms of engagement with orchestral music.

Findings include:

Orchestral music more of a feature of people’s lives than before the pandemic

  • More people are listening to orchestral music today as part of their daily lives than was the case before the pandemic (59% up from 55% pre-pandemic) – trend strongest among younger people.
  • Reflecting the changes in lifestyle post-pandemic, compared with 2018 there has been a significant upturn in the proportions listening to orchestral music while exercising, working, cooking, and pottering in the garden, while listening when commuting/traveling has dropped.

Interest and appetite to explore remains constant

  • Eight in 10 (79%) had interests in new or unfamiliar genres that they were looking to explore in the coming year. Orchestral music featured as the second most popular option.
  • Younger people were significantly more likely to be pursuing an interest in performing arts than their parents, particularly when it comes to listening to podcasts, teaching themselves an instrument, or taking online classes.
  • Desire to book concert tickets remains constant: the research found that 76% of people in the UK said they would consider going to an orchestral concert in the next year – broadly similar to the figure pre-pandemic (79%).
  • Boundaries between types of orchestral music fans has become blurred, with a notable increase in traditional “core-classical” music fans attracted to film music concerts.

RPO Insights Report 2022 violin 900x459

(c) Tim Lutton/RPO

Children strongly engaged but seek more music at school

  • Tonic for stress: a rise compared with pre-pandemic in the percentage of children listening while doing their homework, rising by 11% to 14%, while listening while relaxing rose 9% (to 17%) or as they went to sleep at night by 8% to 14%.
  • Eight in 10 children (79%) said there was a lot more that could be done to get young people into music, with two in five saying there needed to be more music lessons at school.
  • Around a quarter of children aged 6-11 surveyed said their school did not encourage them to learn a musical instrument, a feeling that increased the further the children went through their school lives (33% of 12-16-year-olds, and 73% of 17–18-year-olds). Set against this, the research found that around 85% of children either would like to learn, or are already learning, a musical instrument.

Lack of encouragement correlates with lack of interest

  • Among low-income families, despite strong interest in orchestral music as a whole, people were least likely to say they experienced orchestral music when at school, or during music lessons, as well as being among the most likely to say they were not encouraged to learn an instrument. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were among the most likely (19%) to say there are no types of musical instrument they would like to learn.
  • Similarly, people from rural communities, and their children, are among the most engaged in orchestral music. Yet, children here are among the most likely not to be encouraged to learn a musical instrument, and least likely to experience orchestral music when they are at school. Consequently, children from rural communities are less likely to be interested in learning how to play a musical instrument (79% versus 85% average), and particularly when it comes to learning an orchestral instrument (54% versus 62% average).

James Williams, Managing Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra commented: “The reality of the last three years for the arts industry – brought to its knees by the pandemic and now facing further headwinds with the economic slowdown and cost of living crisis (not forgetting Brexit) – have left organisations grappling with how to survive or navigate the long road to recovery. What is clear from the research is the huge value placed upon the arts by the nation at large, and the important role it plays in their lives day-to-day. The arts in this country remain one of the UK’s greatest exports to the world, creating employment, enriching community life and making a significant contribution to the economy. It has a vital role to play to help the UK build back and heal.

“In terms of education, throughout the last year we have continued to see emphasis placed on STEM subjects in the curriculum above everything else. While these are no doubt important subjects, we appear to be losing sight of the innumerable benefits the arts can offer young people and that complement and improve their performance across every aspect of their academic lives – from numeracy, self-expression, self-confidence, analytical thought, to simply mastering something they enjoy. We need to ensure we focus on STEAM, not just STEM, with an acknowledgement that leaving out this ‘A’ for ‘Arts’ will cause massive damage not just to the music industry, but society at large.”

Read the full Insights Report

Journeys of Discovery with Vasily Petrenko

Discover the exclusive benefits enjoyed by our most loyal audience members.
Support the RPO on our journey to make orchestral music accessible to all.
Stay up to date with the latest concerts, news and stories from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.