For release March 9, 2017
Classical music public radio stations need to sharpen the presentation and digital skills of their hosts and producers, pursue talent projects that will increase staff diversity and promote new ideas, and strengthen local connections and audience engagement, according to a new report from Classical Music Rising, a collaborative project of the Station Resource Group to shape the future of classical music public radio. Classical Music Rising has released a report of findings from its survey of the Classical Music Public Radio workforce in the United States. The project’s Workforce Working Group, led by Judy McAlpine of McAlpine Creative Consulting, set out to identify the opportunities and challenges for classical music stations in building and sustaining a 21st-century workforce. The results provide a snapshot of the size, demographics and concerns for those working today in the presentation and production of classical music on public radio. The full report and an accompanying document of survey results are available for download at Classical Music Rising’s Talent Page.
Every week, more than eleven million Americans listen to classical music on public radio and engage with classical music content via public radio digital services. This content is provided by a complex ecosystem of local all-classical, local mixed format stations – i.e. those that offer both classical music and news programming – and national organizations that produce and/or distribute classical content.
Classical Music Rising’s new survey shows that while more than 1,200 people power the local public radio stations and national organizations that provide classical content, there is a lack of on-air diversity and the digital skills necessary to connect to 21st-century audiences.
“They are an experienced and talented crew” says Wende Persons, Classical Music Rising’s Managing Director. “That’s the good news. But we have many announcers and hosts approaching retirement age, no clear plan for replacing them, and substantial questions about who is going to be able to engage new and diverse audiences not only on-air but in fast-expanding digital spaces.”
Talent development is one of five key areas of exploration identified by station leaders in discussions that led to the creation of Classical Music Rising and a significant investment by the Andrew F. Mellon Foundation. Both in the spotlight and behind the scenes, classical stations are seeking to bring new voices, different perspectives, and a new generation of curators and presenters to their services.
To address this need, Classical Music Rising’s Workforce Working Group created and fielded three surveys to U.S. All-Classical, Mixed Format and national organizations in late November, seeking information about the composition of those working in the specialized fields of classical music hosting and production, plans for future hiring, thoughts about recruitment and training, and other workforce issues.
70 All-Classical organizations were surveyed with 51 responding, a total of 73%. 65 News/Classical stations were surveyed with 30 responding, a total of 46%. All four national organizations surveyed responded: American Public Media (APM), National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and the WFMT Radio Network.
The top priority for both All-Classical and Mixed Format reporting stations is training in on-air presentation. Broadcast hosts are the anchor of classical station engagement with listeners. Station leaders expressed the need to improve presentation and digital/social media communication skills to effectively reach today’s listeners, as well as concern about an absence of a strong bench of younger employees who are passionate about connecting with audiences through classical music on all platforms. The Working Group notes that local community engagement is a significant theme, and that a “Community Engagement Champion” is a new and potentially critical position for many stations.
Responses from Mixed Format stations indicate a more concerned picture of the future. As one comment states: “Will classical music be part of a successful mixed format station three to five years from now? Many say it isn’t successful now. Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of killing off classical music in public radio by not preparing for the future?”
The top three Workforce Working Group recommendations are to create training modules for on-air presentation skills and digital skills for hosts and producers; create a fellowship/internship program to develop new talent at stations with the goal of increasing diversity of staff and adding to diversity of ideas; and partner with AIR (Association of Independents in Radio) to launch a project designed to increase diversity and skills related to classical content, and particularly digital content.
To view the comments, issues and concerns station leaders expressed, as well as demographic information from the responding stations, anticipated job openings, and potential collaborative activities, download the U.S. Classical Music Public Radio Workforce Survey Results.
In its report the Workforce Working Group also outlined ideal skill sets today for hosts and producers, explored projects that are taking new approaches to attracting and developing talent, and included ideas for expanding recruitment, mentorship and training. Their report, which is now with Classical Music Rising’s Steering Committee for evaluation and next steps, download the Workforce Working Group Report.
Members of the Classical Music Rising Workforce Working Group include Judy McAlpine, McAlpine Creative Consulting; Frank Dominguez, General Manager and Content Director, WDAV Charlotte; José Fajardo, President and General Manager, Hawaii Public Radio; Daniel Gilliam, Director of Radio, Louisville Public Media; Ruth Phinney, Program Director, WXXI Rochester; Maggie Stapleton, Assistant Station Manager, KING FM Seattle, and Wende Persons, Managing Director, Classical Music Rising.
Members of Classical Music Rising’s Steering Committee are top executives from leading public media organizations. The group is chaired by Brenda Barnes, President, USC Radio, Los Angeles, and includes Jennifer Ridewood, General Manager, KING FM, Seattle; Nick Kereakos, Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Music Services, American Public Media; Matt Abramovitz, Program Director, WQXR/New York Public Radio, and Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas, co-CEOs of the Station Resource Group.
“One of the exciting outcomes of this work is the enthusiastic engagement of classical stations and national organizations,” stated Station Resource Group co-CEO Tom Thomas. “Collectively, there is a large workforce dedicated to reaching and engaging an audience that numbers in the millions. Our station leadership is articulating the challenges, identifying what is needed to chart the future path, and looks forward to working together to find solutions.”
The “end game” of Classical Music Rising is collaborative action that expands that reach and makes stations more valuable to listeners and communities. A full description of the scope and priorities of Classical Music Rising can be found at the Station Resource Group, or on Classical Music Rising’s About Page.
About Classical Music Rising
Classical Music Rising is a collaborative project of leading classical stations to shape the future of classical music radio as the field confronts evolution in delivery across multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry. The initiative is managed by the Station Resource Group and centers on strategy, innovative tactics, and collective action – all informed by ongoing research and analysis. Classical Music Rising is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and participating station partners.
About the Station Resource Group
SRG’s aim is that America’s public radio stations better serve the public and thrive in a period of radical change. SRG inspires action and change by integrating wide-ranging findings and addressing complex issues in a fashion that resonates with both local and national leaders. SRG enables top station executives to be effective change agents within their organizations. SRG also advocates, organizes, and shapes the larger context for public media, and creates shared solutions to advance the field.
Tom Thomas, co-CEO Station Resource Group
Wende Persons, Managing Director, Classical Music Rising