Music Review Project

The Role of Music Critique in the Classical Music Market

How do other people’s opinions influence your listening choices and evaluations? In the age of Google, YouTube, and Spotify what kind of reviews do you read or listen to? And ultimately, what do you think makes for a convincing argument when it comes to decide whether “to listen or not to listen”?

Music & Wellbeing has joined forces with The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Switzerland) to run an exciting research project investigating how ‘opinion’ influences the choices made by the consumers of classical music recordings. 

The Critic’s Voice: Is professional music criticism dying?

We aim to understand the role of professional criticism, so we started by asking the critics themselves about the nature and influence of their role. We interviewed 14 professional music critics from Switzerland, Germany, and the UK to understand how the critics viewed their own practice. 
We discovered that critics self-identified as mediators between artists, producers, and consumers.

The music critics discussed their professional standards and writing techniques, as well as the challenges of maintaining objectivity and resisting commercial pressures. Their passion for music was a leading thread in their reflection: As one critic explained, the desire to write and share their expert views is inspired by a “burning desire to share a lifelong love for music”.

Critics also expressed concerns though for the future of their profession, questioning the function and even meaning and relevancy of their work in a changing music market, characterized by new consumer habits and opinion sharing channels. 

The Consumer’s View: Reviews still have important roles to play in the classical music market

To tackle these concerns, in a second step we asked consumers what they thought about the function of music critic, and what makes for a good review?

The online-survey targeted classical music consumers and ran (in German and English) between January 2017 and March 2018. A total of 1,200 regular classical music listeners completed the survey from 62 different countries. 

First, we asked people about how they listen to music. Interestingly, and contrary to the stereotypical view of classical music listeners, people reported listening in a variety of ways. CDs were as popular as YouTube, while Spotify and iTunes were used only half as often, and just one in ten listeners reported to use vinyl regularly.

One striking finding for us was that 45% of participants told us, they never pay for classical music. 

We also asked where listeners look for information about classical music. Two thirds often switch on the radio or ask friends and colleagues. These opinion sources also have the largest impact when it comes to deciding what to listen to or buy. 

We were positively surprised to see that 62% of the 1,200 participants stated they recently engaged with professional music review. Classical music listeners said they appreciate reviews that are constructive, respectful, well informed and impartial. As guide to consumers’ listening and purchasing behavior, music critics should offer evaluations underpinned with reasons, as well as engage with music in a nuanced and passionate way. 

What are the next steps? 

Based on the results of the first two studies, we are currently analyzing a large corpus of reviews published in the daily press, as well as in specialized magazines. In 2020 we will pull all the findings together to inform an online-experiment to measure the direct impact of music critique on consumers’ listening and purchasing behaviour. 

Are you interested in being part of this exciting and unique research project? Then leave your contact here for further information.