Photo Credit: Chris Juarez

Photo Credit: Chris Juarez

I am writing on the eve of the ABO conference in Belfast – an annual gathering of the UK’s Orchestras, hosted this year by the Ulster Orchestra, of whom the BBC are proud to be part funders and frequent broadcasters.  It’s an orchestra on great form artistically and also doing great work in Northern Ireland with all kinds of audiences.

The conference takes place – as it always does – in interesting times. Leaving aside the wider political context, the news from the BPI last week that classical streaming  is increasing more than any other genre – as well as physical CD sales – is cheering. It’s cheering because it shows the continuing vitality, fuelled by the creativity, imagination, dedication and persistence of the recorded music industry, the brilliance of emerging and established artists, and containing signs of how we can find and excite a new younger audience for classical music.

It’s also interesting that Bauer just announced they are launching a new classical radio station. It’s really healthy for this great music to be in such demand and the more broadcasters who value, cherish and broadcast it, the better. 

At the BBC we are in the early days of BBC Sounds, which brings together our radio, music and podcast content one place as a personalised app. Already there are signs that the classical mixes on BBC Sounds are attracting new audiences who may not have found classical music before – there is, it seems to me, plenty of scope for exploring this further as the app develops and we experiment with new ways of intelligently presenting classical music – and pointing people to where they can discover more.

One of the opportunities we have is the fact that we do have so much great new talent emerging at the moment – through things like BBC Young Musician, BBC New Generation Artists and BBC Introducing. The chances are if you are listening to Radio 3 you will hear a new and young artist as well as the established greats. You might be tuning in to our BBC Orchestras and Choirs or hearing the best international and domestic orchestras through the BBC Proms – throughout it all, you will hear the breadth and depth of music making today through our characteristically distinctive programming. 

This is deliberate.  I firmly believe that using the classical and other resources of the BBC we can help keep classical music in great shape – with a pipeline of new talent, new repertoire from an expanded canon as we explore new composers and ones from the past who have been forgotten, and reflect the great things the industry as a whole is doing.    We can do things for the industry and help amplify what the industry does in a way that no one else can, helped by the licence fee.

As an industry, there’s a lot of good things going on. I want us here at the BBC to be able to work with the entire industry to continue to offer amazing things to the public – of whatever age – but in particular to get younger audiences to step through a door of discovery into a world where there is something to enhance anyone’s life.  Music is a thing of intrinsic beauty and is a great way to understand humanity through the achievements of composing and performance.  It’s a gift we can give all audiences and lets work together to do that.