Association of British Orchestras

BBC Strategy Review - ABO Statement

The Association of British Orchestras has today (Thursday 9th March 2023) set out a statement in response to the BBC’s announcement of its new strategy, following the 2022 BBC Classical Review.

The reduction of salaried orchestral posts across the BBC English Orchestras, all members of the ABO, by 20%, as well as the decision to close the BBC Singers, the only full time professional chamber choir in the country, is of great concern.

UK orchestras are a major employer and an essential part of a UK music industry which contribute £4billion to the UK economy. However, we have seen a steady decline in public investment in the arts and cultural education. Seeing the biggest single employer of musicians in the country make such a reduction in salaried positions is therefore particularly acute in its impact. Via live performances, work in education, and of course broadcasts, the BBC Orchestras reach into homes and communities across the country at scale. At a time when access to the arts is vital for national wellbeing, this decision will have significant effects on the UK’s creative output and, of course, on the BBC’s exceptional musicians, whose skills are internationally renowned.

We of course welcome the BBC’s doubling of funding for music education and plans to launch new training initiatives and opportunities for people to engage with classical music. Given the upward trend in the number of young people consuming classical music through on-demand streaming services, we also welcome the BBC bolstering its digital offering, widening access and building future audiences.

The perfect storm of economic crises following the continued effects of the pandemic, impacts on international touring and further cuts to public funding have meant that UK orchestras have been particularly hard hit in recent years.

The ABO continues to support its members to weather current and future economic challenges by calling for sustained sector support, including for a 3-year extension to the 50% Orchestra Tax Relief rate in next week’s Spring Budget statement, a measure which is critical to unlocking potential new growth, protecting and generating employment.

The ABO is also collaborating on projects looking at the future wellbeing of the orchestral sector, including supporting the Musicians’ Census – the first initiative of its kind which aims to map the total population of musicians and build a picture of what musicians’ lives and careers look like as a whole. This comprehensive understanding of the ecology of the sector will help to ensure that today’s musicians and those of the future are better supported.

The ABO continues to support our members and the BBC orchestras across the UK during this difficult period. We strive to build strong partnerships across the sector so that together with colleagues, including at the MU, we can strengthen our rich cultural offer and enable orchestras to thrive.

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Bristol,
hosted by Bristol Beacon, from 24-26 January 2024.