Britain’s classical audience grows while orchestras lose money

In new report, orchestras warn they can't continue to do 'more for less'


A report by the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) has shown that the audience of the UK’s top orchestras has increased by 7 per cent to 4.83million since the last survey was carried out in 2013.


British orchestras also increased their educational reach by a huge 35 per cent, reaching 900,000 children and young people.

However, this growth in audience numbers has not been matched by an increased income. While their earned income fell by 5 per cent, orchestras also faced funding cuts of up to 11 per cent from local councils and 7 per cent from the Arts Council.

‘Many of the achievements [in bringing in larger audiences] have been fuelled by audience development initiatives such as discounted ticketing, free concerts and fixed fee performances at open air events,’ said ABO director Mark Pemberton. ‘These have left orchestras suffering a double whammy – a decline in earned income alongside significant cuts in public funding. The message is simple: Orchestras cannot continue doing "more for less".’

Another significant finding from the ABO report is that almost 20 per cent of musicians working in regular or full-time roles in British orchestras are EU nationals, and £6.1m of income came from tours to EU countries.


The ABO has previously warned of the challenges Brexit will create for the UK's orchestras. In a statement last July, the ABO said: 'We will need the new leadership of this country to give us guarantees as to continued freedom of movement across Europe’s borders for our orchestras, artists and orchestral musicians.'