Forget Spotify, CDs are still top of the pops for classical music fans

Classical music fans are shunning the likes of Spotify and iTunes in favour of good old fashioned CDs when listening to their favourite songs and artists, according to a new study.

The study, led by Dr Victoria Williamson from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Music and Dr Elena Alessandri from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland, has revealed a series of new insights into the listening habits of the modern classical music listener.

Findings from the research, which was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, has found that CDs are twice as popular as Spotify or iTunes among classical music fans.

With classical music being enjoyed by an increasingly large audience across the world, the study explored who listens to classical music recordings and whether these people value classical music critique.

Results show that both radio and word of mouth are what influences classical music listeners the most with fans also looking to radio for reviews of their favourite songs and artists.

The majority of classical music listeners read or listen to professional reviews and the study found that these listeners have certain expectations of the review as well as the critic.

Classical music fans expect critics to be a devoted referee with constructive, respectful, open-minded, well-informed, impartial and passionate reviews. Many listeners also value critics who are witty and inspirational.

A good classical music review should provide clear reasons for the evaluation, with comparisons between recordings and a clear and engaging narrative, according to listeners surveyed in the study.

Listeners of classical music also look for a reviewer to talk about the composer, sound, interpretation, composition, evaluation, the musician and instrument.

Over 80 per cent of listeners surveyed in the study believe reviews should provide an informed verdict with guidance on purchasing and listening, as well as helping the consumer appreciate the music.  

Dr Victoria Williamson, who also leads the University of Sheffield’s Music and Wellbeing Research Unit, said: “Music critique still has important roles to play in classical music; this role however may be shifting together with the authority critics are expected to provide. Listeners do not look at critics for normative judgements, they rather ask for well-informed evaluations clearly grounded in reasons and for critics who engage with music in a nuanced and passionate way.”

Dr Elena Alessandri, who co-led the research from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, added: “The classical music market has become more complex and varied; not least due to the new media and technologies that have transformed the way we listen to and interact with music. Against the stereotypical view, classical listeners today are no musical elite and rely on a variety of listening media and formats.”

For more information on the Understanding Classical Music Audiences study, visit:

The University of Sheffield’s Department of Music is one of the UK’s leading centres for music research in the UK, according to the latest Research Excellence Framework.

Sheffield’s Department of Music has a focus on research-led teaching and offers one of the UK’s most diverse and flexible music degrees in which students can study music on its own or with other subjects to tailor their degree.


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