The number of people that would like to experience an orchestral concert has hit a five-year peak - up from 79% in 2018 to 84% in 2023 – according to new audience research from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO).
After a period of seismic challenges - when venues worked hard to rebuild public confidence after the Covid era and arts organisations have grappled with uncertainty over funding – the new RPO data delivers welcome news for the orchestral world, in terms of the resurgent popularity of concerts and evidence also that the genre’s audience is growing.
Whilst the allure of traditional repertoire held firm for the third consecutive year at 24%, there were year-on-year uplifts in the appeal of broader, family-friendly orchestral concerts. The draw of concerts featuring hits from the musicals was up to 34%; concerts that combined orchestral and pop music were up to 31%; film music concerts rose to 30%, and there was a sharp rise in the appeal of child-friendly family concerts – rising from 19% to 26%.
The RPO research, which polled a representative sample of 2,000 adults, has tracked audience engagement with orchestral music for the last five years. The popularity of more popular concerts this year correlates with evidence of a broadening of the orchestral audience – as people new to the genre commit to their first orchestral concert experiences. Nationally the audience new to orchestral music outnumbered the established audience by 54% to 37%.
- People that know very little about classical music but would like to give it a go would be most drawn to orchestral concerts that feature pop music (42%). These people would also choose concerts featuring music from the musicals (37%) and soundtracks from well-known TV shows (34%).
- People that have started a journey of discovery with the orchestral world (but are not yet expert) also said they would be drawn to musicals (36%) – and they were the group most likely to choose the spectacle of a film screening with a live orchestra playing the soundtrack (34%).
- Those studying music or learning an instrument said they would choose a concert featuring traditional repertoire (27%) – but they would also choose family-friendly concerts (28%) and musicals (30%) to enjoy with their loved ones.
- For long-standing orchestral music fans, traditional repertoire was the dominant concert choice (52%) followed by chamber music (25%) – but, even here, there was an appetite to have some fun as well – concerts featuring film music (36%) and hits from the musicals proving popular (36%).
- Interestingly, even for those people that said they currently have no relationship with the orchestral world, the research threw up clues on possible terms of future engagement. This audience affirmed that they would be interested in experiencing a blockbuster film night (24%) for the first time - and also orchestral concerts that featured pop music hits (23%).
James Williams, Managing Director at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra comments: “After a hugely challenging period for the orchestral world, in terms of venue closures during Covid and uncertainty over arts funding, we need to focus on rebuilding public confidence in concerts and investing in further growing tomorrow’s orchestral audience.
“Our latest data suggests the audience for live orchestral performance has grown over the last five years, which is most welcome news. Indeed, ticket sales for RPO concerts across the 2022/23 season exceeded pre-pandemic levels (an average increase of 24% per concert) and sales for the 2023/24 season are off to a terrific start. At the RPO we strive to offer a greater breadth of programming that is welcoming to new and diverse audiences and have found that the more creative entry points we offer, the more people that will start journeys of discovery and move on to experience more challenging repertoire. A noteworthy finding from our latest research was that between 10-20% of all respondents said they would look to experience traditional repertoire as part of a broader concert mix. Our task as an orchestra is not to prescribe what people should listen to, rather we need to nurture a journey of discovery – and that’s exactly what the RPO will be doing with our new season, which launches in a few weeks’ time.”
The status of people’s relationship with orchestral music: Summer 2023
|I have enjoyed classical music for many years||31%|
|I am studying music/learning an instrument and want to broaden my experience of the genre||6%|
|I am discovering / pretty new to the genre, by no means an expert, but there are pieces of music I enjoy||12%|
|I like it, it's not my favourite genre of music but I listen to it from time to time when I fancy something different||30%|
|It's a genre of music I know very little about but I would be interested in giving it a go||12%|
|None of the above / I don't have a relationship with classical music||8%|
The orchestral concerts people would like to experience – comparisons over 12-months
|Hits from the musicals||34%||28%|
|Orchestral concerts that feature pop music||31%||25%|
|Soundtracks from blockbuster films||30%||27%|
|Soundtracks from TV shows||26%||22%|
|Family friendly concerts||26%||19%|
|A film screening with live orchestra||25%||19%|
|Traditional Classical repertoire||24%||24%|
|Soundtracks from video games||11%||10%|
|Net % interested in orchestral concerts||84%||79%|
Discover the RPO's 2023–24 season in Cadogan Hall, Royal Albert Hall and Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall.
The research was conducted by Sego Research among a nat rep sample of 2,077 adults in July 2023. The survey was conducted online.
More information or to arrange interviews contact:
Guy Bellamy / Jim Follett - elephant communications
Tel: 07766 775216 or 07908 551571