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Guess what? The future is classical radio

Digital Music News reports today that the fastest growing US media sector is online digital radio.

Last year, more than 103 million Americans went online for radio every month. The reach has grown from 12 percent of the population in 2002 to almost 40 percent last year, and the growth continues.

We are wondering what proportion of the online audience tunes to classical music radio and which are the leading classical radio websites worldwide. Ideas, anyone?

photo: Helmut Lachenmann, by (c) Marion Kalter/Lebrecht Music and Arts

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  1. Simon Landau says:

    I am not aware of any rating/ranking service, which given the plethora of stations leaves a gap to be filled. I listen to many jazz stations but few classical. Ottos Opera station is a treasure trove of the obscure. Sound quality is better often than DAB. I use a Logitech Squeezebox radio which then separates me from the computer to listen properly.

    Please start a list !

  2. @Simon – you should give us a listen as well as Ottos.

    I know that the NEA puts out a regular publication of classical music listening habits – concertgoing, etc.

    Can one assume they have included digital now?

  3. I like listening to national networks, since they carry live events that would be impossible to hear otherwise. I’d listen more to BBC Radio3, which I consider the best streaming classical station on the web by far, were it not that the bit rate (and therefore sound quality) is throttled for users outside the UK. Netherlands Radio4 has better sound quality, and I can just make out, with my limited German, what’s going on with the presenters’ Dutch. The best of the ARD network in Germany is Bavarian Radio (BR Klassik). I can also recommend France Musique, Klara and RTBF’s Musiq3 from Belgium, Espace2 from Switzerland, the BARTOK channel from Radio Hungary, SR P2 Musik from Sweden, and Radio Clasica from RTVE in Spain.

    Sixtus — listening online from NYC

  4. I Enjoy your blog & books very much, Norman.

    I program the Classical and Classical Voices channels for, which offers 48 categories of music streaming 24 hrs/day. We have seen our classical music stream counts rising steadily, increasing approx. 50% since 2010 (representing about 2-3% of our total stream activity). Our best guess at this time attributes our growing classical numbers somewhat to the general increase in internet media usage, but in particular to increasing our library of content and improved sound quality.

    Since the classical music demographic, on average, is older, one wonders how that plays into the acceptance of internet classical media, too. In any case, If a rising tide floats all boats, then one would think internet classical music listening is on the rise as well. Additionally, it’s not *just* internet radio services out there, there’s YouTube, etc., too. I don’t think anyone has taken all music sources into account in assessing internet music usage.

    Of course, as an announcer/programmer, i would also like to find out *how* people listen to classical music (on or off the internet): non-stop music? with announcing? complete works? fragments/movements? Does that change throughout the day (non-stop music while at the office, announcing in the evening)?

    Boulder, CO

  5. And from south of the Equator… ABC Classic FM is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s classical music network. Our online listening figures are growing all hte time – up by about 20% since the beginning of this year. We don’t know how many listeners we have outside Australia, but the anecdotal response is consistent and positive, particularly from North America where (listeners tell us) we fill a gap in their local radio offer. Apart from 6 hours of jazz programming a week, we are a predominantly classical music station, with two concert timeslots every day, very popular Breakfast and Drive shows, and specialist programs devoted to opera, sacred music and contemporary composition. Here we are:

  6. John Warburton says:

    One of my preferred stations is Minnesota Public Radio’s classical service. Its music programming is fairly adventurous but not quite as full of interviews as BBC Radio 3 seems sometimes to be: and, when it is simply music I wish to hear, with announcements, to MPR Classical I often go. The station streams to Android devices using the stock music player so it is possible to plug an out-of-contract mobile phone with WiFi into whatever high-quality speaker system happens to be nearby. The station is listener supported but, of course, freely available to all.

    This is not to denigrate BBC Radio 3′s speech content. I revere this aspect of the Radio 3′s coverage of music and the rest of the arts; and can receive it anywhere in the world by the same method as quoted above. But, sometimes, just music played by someone else is my choice.

  7. Unfortunately, I think Simon is correct above. I did a bit of searching, and I don’t think anyone has done the diligence to identify the “best” or “most visited” classical stations on the internet. I don’t think anyone has even tried to identify them all, or can.

    A visit to shows that they track about 150 classical stations

    Priory Radio 128 Kbps 7 Listeners
    Antena 1 64 Kbps 1110 Listeners
    Venice Classic Radio 128 Kbps 692 Listeners Mozart Piano 128 Kbps 470 Listeners
    Classical WETA 90.9 FM – Washington D.C. 64 Kbps 464 Listeners
    Flamenco Classical Guitar 40 Kbps 325 Listeners
    AVRO Baroque Around The Clock 256 Kbps 316 Listeners
    RUSSAN-SHANSON.NET 128 Kbps 241 Listeners
    Swiss Internet Radio 128 Kbps 185 Listeners
    Classical KING FM, Seattle 48 Kbps 184 Listeners
    IMER Opus 94.5 FM Mexico, City 32 Kbps 171 Listeners

    You get the idea. I also went to for their listings, which are different. Then there are all the broadcast services themselves, which track all their own streams by category (such as with hundreds of classical choices).

    My perception is that it would time a bit of time (weeks) and resources to suss this out.

    I’m still checking into this, but thought I’d report back from the frontier.


  8. At WWFM The Classical Network (, we fervently believe that we hold part of the future of classical music in our hands. Our hosts strive to bring to the air music from all genres and time periods – from the Renaissance to music written in the past few years. We play the great masterpieces and lesser-known works of the great composers, and music from composers rarely heard on other stations. And our hosts take great pride in educating listeners about the music as well. More recently, we have begun broadcasting live concerts, including many featuring new compositions or up-and-coming musicians, knowing that these performances are an important part of the music repertoire that is usually restricted to the ears of those few who are able to be at that location. You’re welcome to check us out online at We’re based near Princeton, NJ, and our terrestrial broadcasts are heard throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York through a combination of analog and digital (HD) radio.

  9. Since radio-Canada (french langauag Canadian radio) Made its desastrous move a couple years ago, phasing out classical music and mixing it with world music/chanson Française, I’ve been tuning in bbc radio 3 and France musique all week long.

    I wonder if radio-Canada know how many people just tuned out of their channel and got their classical music “fix” elsewhere in the world….

    Those who really lost are local Canadian and québécois players and artists who do not have “bandwidth” with those who went to bbc3 or other classical channels alswehere….

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