BBC Proms audience dips again

BBC Proms audience dips again


norman lebrecht

September 10, 2016

The BBC have just released audience figures for this summer’s Proms, which end tonight.

Average attendance for the main evening Proms in the Royal Albert Hall this year was 88% with 45 of 75 concerts in the Royal Albert Hall selling out.

That’s not bad, but not good, either.

Between 2009 and 2013, uptake was consistently above 90 percent, peaking at a record 95%.

In 2014, a penny-pinch year after Wagner-Verdi-Britten extravagances, it fell back to 88%. The Proms director Roger Wright left shortly before the season began.

Last year, under interim management, audiences rose marginally to 89%.

Now, with David Pickard installed as boss, the uptake has settled again at 88%.

In another setback, fewer first-timers bought tickets than in 2015.

The heavily spun BBC press release follows its presenter-driven promo picture.

bbc proms plastic trumpets

Tonight the BBC Proms concludes with the world famous Last Night of the Proms led by conductor Sakari Oramo and starring Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez. Once again more than 300,000 people attended the Proms demonstrating that classical music is in rude health.

The fantastically rich display of world class music making this summer has included some standout moments from Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich performing Schubert’s Rondo in A major together as an encore; Quincy Jones conducting the finale of a Prom celebrating his life and work, and the Ten Pieces II Proms which brought the innovative BBC project bringing classical music to school children to life.

From Bernard Haitink marking his 50th anniversary conducting at the Proms by leading Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the London Symphony Orchestra, Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla making her Proms debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemann bringing a trio of world class German orchestras in the final week, the orchestral offering has been truly outstanding.

For the first time in 2016 an innovative new series Proms At… went to four new corners of London: the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark, The Chapel, Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, the Roundhouse in Camden and the Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park in Peckham – the first Prom to take place in a car park!

Average attendance for the main evening Proms in the Royal Albert Hall this year was 88% with 45 of 75 concerts in the Royal Albert Hall selling out.

More than 35,500 people bought tickets for the first time. Over 10,000 under 18s attended concerts across the season. A record 57,000 tickets sold in the first hour of booking. 

David Pickard, Director, BBC Proms 2016, says: “It has been a thrill to be part of this extraordinary festival for the first time and I’m delighted that the 2016 BBC Proms has once again seen audiences embracing the huge breadth of music on offer throughout the eight weeks of the festival, from the Royal Albert Hall to a car park in Peckham. I am delighted that thanks to the ongoing commitment of the BBC, the Proms remains true to Sir Henry Wood’s founding vision to bring the best music to the largest possible audiences”



  • SVM says:

    This does not surprise me — I used to be a semi-regular prommer even last year, but I have become fed up with the failure of the BBC and/or Albert Hall management to enforce the rudiments of audience etiquette. The Arena has descended into anarchy, with people slurping drinks, coughing, and using mobile electronic devices — even if such devices manage to remain perfectly silent, which is not always the case, the light emitted constitutes an unacceptable distraction — even during the music. Furthermore, since 2013, the year of the “Wagner-Verdi-Britten extravagances” (and, I fondly remember, some really good repertoire off the beaten track as well), the ambition and artistic vision of the programming has been in decline.

    Given this combination of factors, this year, I bothered only with the three concerts which struck me as truly unmissable both on account of the repertoire *and* the performers (they were Proms 17, 25, & 65), to the extent that I can somehow almost ignore the impositions and tribulations of travel, queueing, and badly behaved audience members.

    Am I a snob? Maybe I am, but it is people like me who form the backbone of the loyal audiences for classical music, so I feel we deserve some consideration (yes, I know that, financially speaking, the Proms relies on the subsidy of the television poll tax, but still, what is the point of going to the expense if efforts are not made to render the concert experience focussed and special?). Furthermore, the finding that “fewer first-timers” came undermines any justification for lax standards on the ostensible grounds of ‘accessibility’, whatever that is supposed to mean…

    • Una says:

      SVM, you sound pretty normal to me, and I can identify with your sentiments. Am sick of people bringing in their drinks even into the Circle. That was allowed not that many years ago. And then the behaviour – and I don’t know how many times I have had to ask people to turn off their mobiles as the conductor is on the podium, or talking whilst the music is going on, the huge Spanish-type fans some people bring in as they can’t stand the heat, and just their inability to sit properly in their seats. And I don’t even live in London anymore … and the ticket prices went up somewhat this year. See what next year brings.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      I would like to echo your concerns about audience behaviour, which seems to have deteriorated as the years go by. Two incidents stand out in particular from this year’s Proms. At one a group of middle-aged “lager louts” arrived just before the performance was due to begin, clutching their full glasses and pushing their way past seated patrons to get into the middle of the row. One of these appeared with his mates after the interval with two glasses (one in each hand). The second relates to the private boxes in the RAH. I have noted in the past that some people have been having loud picnics in these chambres separées, but my eyes started to pop during a performance of Mahler 1 in August. Across the Arena from where I was sitting, in one of these private boxes, there was either a real or simulated copulation scene, with the couple writhing around. In some cases it is not only the audible but also the visual distractions that can easily spoil the event for people who come to focus on the performance alone.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Perhaps an analysis of the difference in repertoire/artists between the high and low years would reveal something.

    But dropping from 89% to 88% is not a strong indicator of future trends.

  • B Bailey says:

    Some decisions were certainly questionable. As Norman has pouinted out, not a scrap of Busoni to commemorate his 150th. The Piano Concerto would have been nice.
    And why did Glyndebourne bring the Barber of Seville instead of Beatrice et Benedict wgich would have been in keeping with the Shakespeare 400 theme?

  • Geoff Cox says:

    I am going to less proms than before because of

    1. the high cost of tickets for seats
    2. the poor air conditioning
    3. the annoying clapping between movements


    • Will Duffay says:

      Just out of interest: do you attend concerts during the rest of the season? Ticket prices and annoying clapping are features elsewhere in London. And I never book for the Barbican because I’m damned if I’m paying their £3 or £4 charge for actually buying a ticket. Absurd policy.

      The RAH is certainly warm, though. And the audience is particularly badly behaved. I was surprised how they leapt in with their cheery before Rattle’s Brahms 2 had actually finished.

      • Geoff Cox says:

        I only go to the RFH, Barbican or Wigmore Hall when there is some music or musician I really, really want to hear.

        Far better to go to the music colleges or one of the smaller concert venues. See my list of over 70 such places in London!



  • Catherine says:


    Can I ask where you found the original BBC press release? I can’t seem to get hold of it online.



  • David Aston says:

    There are far too many “New” works performed, most of which will never be heard again. The BBC should commission no more than 6 works during an entire series. This will ensure only the best are performed, put out a tenure to 20 composers and pick the best 6.
    It’s also time to put an end to Proms dedicated to things like Dr Who! If the BBC want to stage these sorts of concerts they can do so any time of the year. But these concerts have no musical value, financial value perhaps. The Proms should concentrate on serious music, letting “your hair down” occasionally.
    The audience and attendance will become a growing problem. When I had a season ticket in the Prom most of the people there were under 25. Now, most of them look over 50! I believe the younger generation lack attention span when listing to music, having been brought up listening to album tracks lasting no longer than 4 minutes before moving onto the next. So how can you expect them to listen to a 45 minute symphony?
    If you look back at Sir Henry’s programs, sometimes there were over 10 pieces played in a single concert. Look at this years programs and count the number of concerts that have more than 4. It might be something worth considering.
    Finally, it’s all a matter of money. There are roughly about 200 pieces that are played on a regular basis at classical music concerts that are guaranteed to create revenue. But there are hundreds and hundreds more, written by established composers that are never heard and are just as good, many if not better. It’s whether anyone will now take the risk to perform them and still make money out of it. Isn’t time those overpaid people in the “Marketing” profession stepped up to the plate and proved their worth. Even I could fill the RAH with Beethoven’s 5th, but what about Nielsen’s 1st.