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Classical singles chart greeted with scepticism by industry

9:45, 12th February 2015

The launch of a weekly classical singles chart, the first of which will be released on 28 May, has been greeted enthusiastically by crossover artists but more sceptically by the core classical sector.

The Official Charts Company said its venture reflected ‘a shift in the classical music sector, and consumers’ growing enthusiasm for buying classical music track by track’.

It added: ‘The past two years have seen a surge in individual track download sales – up 46% in 2011 compared to 2010 (1.22m vs 834,000). While these numbers were boosted by the success of the Military Wives’ Christmas No 1 Wherever You Are (which was downloaded 191,000 times on its own in 2011), download sales would still have been above 1m for the year, for the first time ever.’

The 284,000 classical downloads in the first quarter of this year were a further 34% increase, it said.

The Classical BRITs awards ceremony, which recording industry umbrella group the BPI is shifting this year from May to September, will inaugurate a singles award, with the public selecting the winner from the top sellers.

Gareth Malone, Military Wives choirmaster and presenter of TV series The Choir said of the singles boom: ‘I think that’s opened it [classical music] to a whole new generation, and I don’t think that there is the stigma it had when I was growing up that classical music was just for a few of us – now it’s for everyone.’

Paul Mealor, composer of the Military Wives’ hit, tenor Russell Watson and soprano Hayley Westenra endorsed the new chart in the OCC press release.

But Mike Spring, sales manager at Hyperion, said while the label had seen dramatic growth in classical downloads over the past year, that mainly comprised whole albums or works. The offer of high audio quality codecs such as Flac and Alac seemed to have persuaded classical enthusiasts to try downloads, he said. ‘Right from the start we found that Flacs were 50% of our business.’

Anthony Anderson, managing director of Naxos UK, agreed saying: ‘By its nature, this chart will be more relevant to other companies.’

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