A new NEA report, “Airing Questions of Access: Classical Music Radio Programming & Listening Trends” addresses access to classical radio. The report examines key classical radio characteristics, including trends in station counts and listening hours, as well as the finances of classical radio.
For several decades now, the distribution of classical music in the U.S. has been closely linked with public radio programming, whether through broadcasts of live concerts or studio recordings. A 2002 study found that most classical music listeners access the art primarily through radio, suggesting that the medium is critical to long-term audience development, particularly for live classical concerts. Yet the rise of news/talk radio formats since the mid-1990s has challenged classical music’s preeminence on public radio. This document offers a platform for extended research on the subject.
As a sector, classical music radio is dynamic and adaptive but in short supply of consistent, accurate data. The Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau do not enumerate radio listeners or stations by format. Industry data sources can be irregular or even incorrect. Further complicating any analysis of classical radio are distinctions between commercial and public radio and the “dual format” of classical music and news so common at public stations.