Women composers in the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2019 (or lack thereof)

It’s going to take a brave producer in the commercial space to put something unusual or unfamiliar in the playlist and not then look at the RAJARs and wonder what impact that decision has had on the listenership.

The Daffodil Perspective is a blog and podcast that ‘champions gender equality in classical music’.

One post published yesterday has been doing the rounds and has caught my eye. In ‘Classic FM – Where are all the women?’, the author draws attention to the lack of women composers who feature in the publically voted ‘Hall of Fame’ chart Classic FM has since its inception.

It is a sad indictment (still) that women composers aren’t given the due prominence they deserve – both historical creatives and the present day. The work to increase their profile and their output will never cease to be required, but it has been my understanding (skewed possibly by being increasingly in attendance at women composer-focussed endeavours and concerts) that the situation is improving. Awareness is increasing.

There’s a quote from the post I take issue with slightly.

Don’t Classic FM (and the BBC, LPO, Wigmore Hall etc) have a responsibility to educate their listeners?

The Daffodil Perspective, 23 April 201

None of the arts organisations in the UK – nor across the world – have a specific responsibility to educate their listeners. Those organisations listed in the blog post might strive to educate (as in the BBC’s values – ‘inform, educate, and entertain’) but they don’t have a responsibility to. One could argue that an Arts Council funded organisation like the LPO has a contractural obligation to meet the expectations laid down by their funding body, but being privately funded, Wigmore Hall doesn’t (although its education programme is in itself very strong anyway – but then that’s because Wigmore Hall is brilliant, IMHO).

Importantly, Classic FM has absolutely no responsibility to ‘educate’ their listeners. That isn’t their raison d’etre. They’re a commercial exercise: a broadcast outlet for a specific audience demographic, part of a significant media organisation.

I’ve long since stopped regarding Classic FM (and its most recent sibling Scala) as being present in our lives first and foremost to satisfy listeners, rather than the advertising it sells and the profits its raise are its primary concern, and its stakeholders the ones the media execs are accountable to.

So what now? Will Classic FM continue to justify playing nothing but the same music year after year by using biased data like these polls?

Or can Classic FM exert their power as a major influencer of taste, creating more balanced programming and exposing the massive amount of awesome classical music written by women?

The Daffodil Perspective, 23 April 2019

As long as commercial radio is funded by advertising (like that’s ever going to change) then the playlist will always be the same. Commercial classical music radio stations might play classical, but they’re not their for the good of the wider classical music world. They can’t be. They need to appeal to the widest possible audience to drive reach and increase profits. That’s not to say that women composers music cannot appeal to the widest possible audience. Far from it.

But it’s going to take a brave producer in the commercial space to put something unusual or unfamiliar in the playlist and not then look at the RAJARs and wonder what impact that decision has had on the listenership.

Listen to the Thoroughly Good Podcast spotlighting six women composers and their work at the PRS for Music Wild Plum Arts Workshop

Listen to Dr Sophie Fuller discuss Trinity Laban’s Venus Blazing project

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