Classical music was the fastest growing genre in the UK in 2018, the UK recording industries figures show. Sales and streams increased by 10.2 percent compared with the previous year, pulling in front of a 5.7 percent increase in overall music consumption.

Streaming increased 42 percent year on year, with streaming now accounting for a quarter of classical music consumption – still well under the almost two thirds across all music consumption. CD sales of classical music even increased, by 6.9 percent defying a general trend away from physical formats. Digital downloads of albums fell by 13.4 percent – a dramatic drop but smaller than the 26 percent drop across the whole market.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, classical musicSheku Kanneh-Mason. Photo © Decca

While Andrea Bocelli’s Si and Aled Jones and Russell Watson’s In Harmony led the charge as the top classical albums of 2018, newcomer cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason – who shot to international fame when he played at the royal wedding in 2018 – is right behind with his debut album Inspiration and is one of several young artists making significant inroads into the streaming market.

“This is a dynamic moment in the history of Classical music, with brilliant new artists such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Alexis Ffrench and Jess Gillam bursting through to accompany revered icons such as Andrea Bocelli, Yo-Yo Ma and Bryn Terfel,” Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, and Co-Chair of BPI’s Classical Committee, said. “The popularity of soundtracks and new works by composers such as Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter are broadening the appeal of Classical among younger listeners on streaming services.”

Taylor sees all of this as a sign of hope for the future. “There is a tremendous opportunity for sustainable growth if the new digital platforms continue to improve the profile and searchability of classical music, while labels continue to nurture new talent and appeal to collectors through beautifully curated CDs and boxsets,” he said, also welcoming the UK Government’s proposal to review music education. “Funding and promoting much stronger music education in all schools would deliver benefits across society going well beyond Classical music.”