Subsidiary Research

Audience reception and promotion of contemporary classical music in the UK



By studying aspects of classical audience music reception in the UK past and present, this paper seeks to identify factors that may help the future promotion of contemporary classical music in the UK. Included is a short, anecdotal audience reception survey conducted over two concerts at Guildford International Music Festival, 2007, to determine possible trends in contemporary classical music listening. New ways to experience contemporary classical music are suggested arising from an historical analysis of 18th century Vauxhall Gardens, and a study model to determine young childrenís openness to contemporary classical music is proposed, with reviews of key studyís surrounding listening preferences of children. In conclusion, issues arising from preceding chapters were posited to contemporary classical music promoters.

Chapter 1 An historical perspective: learning from the past

Audience reception from the past and present paints a picture of the popularity, accessibility, and viability of classical music. Though the twenty first century is very different from past centuries, understanding how an audience experienced a musical event historically, whether formally or informally, quietly or socially, and in what sort of space the event took place: concert hall, club, inn or town square, enables us to take a fresh look at different ways to experience music today. To that end, this chapter will provide an historic in-depth analysis of one historical London music venue in order to enable suggestions for the promotion and audience reception of contemporary classical music today.

Chapter 2 An audience perspective

A contemporary audience has its say in the form of anecdotal evidence gathered from an audience survey conducted at two concerts at the Guildford International Music Festival 2007. The questions asked were mostly to ascertain what sort of image a classical music audience had of contemporary classical music, whether they would like to hear more or less, and if a contemporary multi arts event (following on from suggestions in the previous chapter) would be of interest.

Chapter 3 Openness to contemporary classical music appreciation with children of a young age

LeBlanc, Sims, et al study of listening preferences for different age listeners show a musical exploration period to be at an optimum at ages 6-10 (LeBlanc, Sims et al. 1996) though other studies have had similar findings with even younger subjects (Peery and Peery 1986). LeBlanc's study followed on from his earlier work, and the results seemed to support his hypothesis that younger children are more "open‟ to a wider breadth of music than those emerging into adolescence. This openness partially returns with maturity to adulthood, and declines in the later years. LeBlanc cites Hargreaves (1982) suggestion that younger children are open to more unconventional music, though in the above study this would be hard to support due to the lack of inclusion of such musical examples. This chapter proposes a study model for furthur research in this area, and explores factors pertaining to a young persons experience of classical music.

Chapter 4 A promoterís perspective

Previous chapters have discussed ideas for the promotion and audience reception of contemporary classical music arising from an analysis of Vauxhall gardens. Chapter two discussed whether the main idea, an event incorporating multi-arts, would be of interest to a modern-day audience and whether they would attend more concerts if this type of event were available. Chapter three debated whether young children would be interested in contemporary classical music if it was introduced at a young age. This chapter poses questions to contemporary classical music promoters in order to engage debate around many of these key issues. Of particular interest to the main hypothesis are questions of the programming and promotion of new music. The following discussion was born from a series of interviews with contemporary classical music promoters conducted over a period of twelve months. (See Appendix B for list of promoters and organisations interviewed).


Analysis of a successful historical musical venue gave an insight into alternative ways to promote and experience contemporary classical music today. Anecdotal evidence suggested that audience figures would increase, and that new audiences could be gained. Finally, there was some evidence to suggest that young children may be more inclined to like, and foster a continuing interest in CCM, if it was a) introduced early enough, and b) was kept on the musical curriculum with an interactive listening/performance programme.