John Adams: BBC has ‘joined the march to the bottom’

John Adams: BBC has ‘joined the march to the bottom’


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2023

The leading American composer has delivered a diatribe against the BBC music cuts. It has been posted by James Weeks, who has now amassed more than 800 composer autographs on a petition to stop the BBC’s self-demolition.

Adams says: ‘We Americans hear only the worst stories from the UK, as if the country is on a determined self-destruct freefall. The BBC now apparently wants to join the march to the bottom by cutting its invaluable institutions.’

Read the full Adams letter below (click image to enlarge text).


  • Bostin'Symph says:

    An excellent contribution to the argument. Well said, John Adams. It’s unsurprising and nice to know that our treasures are appreciated overseas.

    The BBC’s moves beggar belief. It’s like wandering behind the National Gallery and finding a da Vinci in the skip.

  • Banshees of Inisherin says:

    As a Frenchman, great movie!

  • David A. Janello, PhD, CFA says:

    As a composer, I fully support the cuts made by the BBC.

    People who listen to our music and perform it should pay for it, not taxpayers.

    • SingingReindeer says:

      I’m sure the BBC are thrilled by your support….

      • Una says:

        Don’t think the BBC are thrilled by arguments on either side of the fence, or all the noise, or even John Eliot Gardiner this morning on Radio 4 being interviewed. The BBC will do what it wants and feels is necessary in an attempt to save money in a very uncertain future.

    • Robin Worth says:

      Do you really mean “and perform it should pay for it” ?

    • Mel Cadman says:

      Although I have heard nothing of your compositions, I now know you have a PhD and CFA (whatever that means). Wow! Perhaps I have missed the ultra-successful débuts which your compositions must have generated to come across as so smug and complacent. I know you must both belong to, as well as subscribe to, one of the ultra-capitalist countries where the concept of public subsidy for any art form is utter anathaema, whatever damaging impact it might have on musicians as well as audience. Indeed, let them eat cake!

    • DH says:

      And they do!! The BBC audience each pay a licence fee which pays for commissioning, composition and performance fees. The total is significant, but not in relation to the £3.8 billion licence fees collected by the BBC.

      As well as studio broadcasts the BBC orchestras also give series of live concerts for paying audiences e.g. the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performances throughout Scotland, the BBC Concert Orchestra at the South Bank, the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, almost all the summer Promenade Concerts in the Albert Hall, and so on. Most of the audience will also be licence payers, so they are paying twice – licence payer and audience member.

      The BBC is also the most important commissoner of new music in the UK, and it is scrupulous in paying composition and performing rights fees to composers.

    • Tancredi says:

      Does it not occur to you that many of us may first have heard classical music on the BBC? Perhaps you were fortunate in having parents who took you to concerts, but that is not the case for the rest of us who are, or will become, taxpayers.

    • trumpetherald says:

      That´s why none of your music is heard,dude.

    • Maria says:

      Sounds like an unknown American composer with all those spare letters, and not understanding what and how we do things in Britain, and Ireland!

    • Mick the Knife says:

      because it’s like a double cheeseburger, driven by consumerism…right?

      • David A. Janello, PhD, CFA says:

        The analogy with cheeseburgers is a good one.

        Say you are running a gourmet cheeseburger shop and no one wants to buy your product. You have a couple of options.

        You can change the ingredients to make it more attractive.

        You can increase your outreach via advertising and word of mouth to get more people to buy your cheeseburgers.

        Circulating high minded petitions asking people who don’t want your cheeseburgers to pay for other people to consume them is not a realistic option.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    Bravo, John!

  • Celso Antunes says:

    Bravissimo, John!

  • Stephen says:

    You think Lorna’s ever heard of you, John?

  • Dave says:

    John Adams – dude and musician. The man is a living legend.

  • Tancredi says:

    Rage and sadness. le Figaro earlier this week reported that Les Britanniques had abandoned the BBC musicians because we are too poor. One feels the embarrassment of now being a designated philistine.

  • trumpetherald says:


  • Una says:

    America can hardly shout. For the size of the country, not many designated classical music radio stations to its name. Chicago alone axed WNIB Classical 97 some years ago, one of the best.

  • tony audas says:

    J Coolidge Adams or j Luther Adams?

  • R. Brite says:

    Bravo, John Adams.

    I’m wonder why nothing yet has been posted in this forum about the growing calls for a Proms boycott. Like the idea or not, some concerted effort of that type might make the crucial difference.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    The BBC had no problem sacrificing untold numbers of children to the likes of Jimmy Savile and then censoring any one who tried the blow the whistle. This letter will do absolutely nothing but fall on deaf ears.

    • David A. Janello, PhD, CFA says:

      If taxpayers can be forced to pay for Beethoven and John Adams, this sets a precedent where they can be forced to pay for anything, including comedian Jimmy Savile, classical musician Jeffrey Epstein, coerced experimental medical treatments and mass murder in Vietnam, Iraq and the Ukraine.

      The move to audience supported art not only nourishes the arts in the most profound sense but cuts off funding to Savile and Epstein’s patrons.