Back in 1998, I helped to set up one of the first classical music websites. Global Music Network offered on-demand audio and video streaming, and downloading. It was pretty painful to use on dial-up modem, and it closed four years later.
So it’s very good to see the British Phonographic Industry’s positive figures about digital music consumption in the UK for the classical sector – endorsing the value of the seeds we sowed two decades ago. In 2018, streams of classical music rose by 42% (compared with a 33% rise for the whole UK music market), and streaming now accounts for a quarter of classical consumption (up from 19.5% in 2017). CD sales also rose. Revenues are up and consumption has massively increased. There have always been predictions that new technologies will kill off old ones and that each new development will bring the death of the recording industry, but perhaps these are wrong.
I manage an independent classical label, Signum. Last year, one of our artists delivered more than 1m streams to almost 500,000 listeners in 65 countries who had consumed 58,000 hours of her music – and that was just on one service. We could never distribute physical product to that number of territories. Digital services are enabling us all to reach a much bigger global audience. The label also has an artist who, over the past four years, has enjoyed more than 25m streams of one particular track – which is now on more than 28,000 playlists.