Classic FM’s Audience Hits A Record Low

By Michael Vincent on August 15, 2022

Zeb Soanes Classic FM
Pictured, Zeb Soanes: Host of weekday evening music show Smooth Classics on Classic FM

According to stats released by RAJAR data, Classic FM has lost a record ~500K listeners since the start of the pandemic. The radio station’s audience has dropped to below 5 million, a 22-year low.

The data, which was released in early August, pertains to the second quarter of 2022. From March 2022 to March 2023, Classic FM lost 191,000 listeners, plummeting to 4.97 million.

The RAJAR website, which was established in 1992, has quarterly listening statistics dating back to 1999. The smallest audience for Classic FM in those 22 years.

After posting record lows in three of the previous four quarters, there is a downward trend at Classic FM. The 5.48 million listeners Classic FM had prior to the pandemic in March 2020 have now decreased by 516,000. (Due to the pandemic, RAJAR did not provide quarterly data from March 2020 to September 2021.)

Is this due to a decline in Classical Music listeners? 

Probably not… According to stats collected by Nielson, terrestrial radio listenership has been fairly steady for years.

That growth ended in 2020 when it suddenly dropped by 6%.

Nielsen Audio RADAR 149
Source: Nielsen Audio RADAR 149, June 2021, publicly available via Radio Advertising Bureau.

The culprit looks to be a combination of market factors:

    1. Looking at stats from the US as an example, ,more than 60% of Americans have worked from home since the pandemic started, some permanently. This has greatly impacted radio as commuters form the largest portion of their audience.
    2. While they are different mediums, podcasts have been gradually capturing market share from radio, particularly in the largest age segments under 50.
Edison Research and Triton Digital, “The Infinite Dial 2021.”
Source: Edison Research and Triton Digital, “The Infinite Dial 2021.”

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