The establishment of Classic FM in 1992 had a huge impact on Radio 3. It became .
..Britain’s first home-based national commercial station.
(Crisell 1986(1994) p38) Classic FM was and continues to be something that contradicts everything the BBC stands for. Reith would describe it as pandering to public taste rather than “leading to it” (Scannell 1990 p13). Indeed Classic FM’s premise is that …
classical music is, and always has been, popular music. The station’s aim is to make classical music accessible to as wide an audience as possible.The main difference between Radio 3 and Classic FM is of course the commercial aspect.
Classic FM is ultimately concerned with making money and keeping its advertisers happy. In its first week of broadcast it received a variety of responses. Anthony Hopkins, conductor and broadcaster commented I was expecting about what I got: short bursts of music divided one from another with adverts that were completely out of the tone of the music preceding: the ‘Pie Jesu” from the Faure Requiem, immediately followed by an ad for Tropicana orange juice – which, to add to the injury, also had a mishmash of music behind it (Independent)Whilst Classic FM can be strongly criticised for this commercial ideal, it is important to consider the issue from a more sociological standpoint. A consumer society, promotes this capitalist ideology.
Radio is an excellent source of ‘multi-marketing’, whereby music can be played and advertised by the disc jockeys, products can be ‘plugged’ during the commercial breaks (etc). This scenario is of course not solely experienced in radio. The media industry is one of the most significant and influential of modern times.
Classic FM and other such commercial stations are a result of a consumer society. They are bringing a product to the ‘masses’. This notion of bringing music to the masses is controversial.
For example, James Jolly, Editor of the Gramaphone contrastingly said of Classic FM I quite liked it…it’s a strange sort of classlessness that’s relaxing, there’s something very direct about it..
. It does make Radio 3’s morning stuff seem rather creaky. If you could get Classic FM’s presenters and Radio 3’s music together, that would be ideal. (Independent) In general, the critics received Classic FM negatively. One of the major faults seemed to be the programming. To keep the audience satisfied and to ensure they kept tuning in, lots of short pieces are broadcast. This enabled the music to be interspersed with advertisements, ‘jovial’ comments from presenters and requests from listeners.
The most bizarre feature was that they played single movements out of bigger pieces, and I found that most disorientating, to leap into the second movement of a Brandenburg Concerto from an aria from Don Giovanni. I felt what I heard was being flung at me in terribly small morsels. (Judith Weir, Composer: Independent)Radio 3 in contrast, play much longer works, under the title of programs such as ‘Masterworks’ and ‘Artist of the Week’. By looking at the programmed music of both channels, it is easy to see the fundamental differences. Radio 3 does not limit itself to merely ‘classical’ music. It of course offers a selection of works from renowned composers such as Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Schubert (Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No 2 in C Minor, Op 66/ Beethoven: Piano Sonata in E Flat, Op 109/ Schubert: Octet in F, D72. Wind Players of the Bamberg SO).
However, the works tend to be played in full (Radio 3 does not have to adhere to the pressure of advertisements). Radio 3 also plays more obscure pieces and composers, the like that would not be deemed ‘suitable’ for Classic FM. For example they may choose works from twentieth century composers such as Boulez, Stockhausen and Birtwistle. At the same time, their schedules include other genres of music such as jazz and folk.
Like their predecessor The Third Program, Radio 3 also broadcast live plays, media slots from novelists/ journalists (etc). They do not just broadcast music.Classic FM in contrast is very much music based. They are a commercial station, so must intersperse their music with advertisements. They have a limited play list and tend to concentrate on particularly favourites. Whilst listening to Classic FM for a substantial period, it is quite possible that you may hear the same track more than twice. You can hear the clichï¿½d favourites such as Beethoven’s Fifth and part of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (etc). This shows the parallel between Classic FM and their other commercial ‘pop’ counterparts.
Stations that play popular music such as those in the Capital Radio group (Capital FM in London, Southern FM etc) play the same tunes over and over again, in an attempt to pander to popular taste – to please the ‘masses’. Of course this is the essence of popular culture. Commercial popular music stations compile their play list principally from the chart.The commercial chart depends on sales of particularly tracks, the track with the largest airplay, combined with the biggest amount of sales becomes number 1. Classic FM works on a similar basis.
They concentrate on compiling a Classical ‘Hall of Fame’ hosted by Henry Kelly annually. However, they constantly refer to the Top 100 Classical hits in the Hall of Fame, with a weekly program introducing possible new entries for the following year. The fact that the same classical tunes tend to hold the same or very similar positions every year makes little difference. There is little spoken information other than ‘plugging’ from the disk jockeys. And constant reminding that the listener can purchase the majority of the tracks heard through the Classic FM shop, by either calling on logging onto their website.
Interestingly the two websites are equally revealing. The homepage for Radio 3 is very informative, with lots of information and internal links to find out about their programmes and special featured artists and literary stars. They also include information on live music, where to listen to it (etc).
The homepage for Classic FM in contrast seems somewhat overshadowed by advertisements and links to other sites. It is difficult to see the information specific to the radio station. The most obvious part of the homepage is the link to their shop.It would seem from the programming and websites that there are huge differences between Classic FM and Radio 3. Radio 3 are less interested in attracting huge audiences and making vast amounts of profit. They seem aware that they are attracting a particular minority audience and provide ‘quality’ listening, following the original manifesto of the BBC to educate and provide ‘culture’. It is difficult to even compare Classic FM within this category.
They are commercial station, that whilst promising to provide Classical Music to the masses, fundamentally needs to make money to remain broadcasting. Consequently, advertisements intersperse their music, meaning that it is very often cut in obscure points in the work. The play list is very limited to ensure that the ‘favourite’ tunes are frequently played to attract as many listeners as possible.Yet, despite such criticisms, Classic FM has become incredibly successful in a very short amount of time.
Weekly figures give Classic FM a reach of 6.2 million and an audience share of 4.4 percent.
Radio 3 has less than a third, in terms of listeners. So why has it become so popular? Ruthless business marketing is very much part of Classic FM’s success. Classical music fails to renew itself at the rate pop does – a reason why popular music is so appropriate for radio. Classic FM uses performers to sell its music.
Classical tunes are made popular again by new stars. Pavarotti brought ‘Nessun Dorma’ to the masses. Charlotte Church, Vanessa Lee and Lesley Garrett are all favourites on Classic FM. It also uses film music, to attract a greater audience. …
Classic has clearly assisted in redefining classical music. Two women from Manchester contacted the Bates programme last Sunday to request the main theme from Gone with the Wind. The network routinely plays film music and has done for Charlotte Church, well, Classic has done everything short of adopting her. (Barnard in The Times 11/08/00)