Classical music fans embrace downloads

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The Independent Culture

Classical music-lovers are hi-tech as well as highbrow, according to a survey, which sheds a fresh light on their fusty image.

Three-quarters of classical music fans are listening to their music using 21st century media such as MP3 players, digital television or personal computers.

Nearly three-fifths have ripped - converted to digital format - at least some of their classical CD collection and one in five download legally from the internet.

And age was no deterrent to embracing the modern world, the survey found. Downloaders aged 50-plus bought as many tracks as younger classical fans.

The over-50s also proved more adventurous in their downloading tastes. Their first download was as likely to be Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the 72-year-old Master of the Queen's Music who offers his music on his website, as Beethoven. Across all ages, Beethoven and Mozart were the most popular choices for a first download. It is likely that many of those questioned took advantage of the free Beethoven downloads offered by Radio 3.

James Jolly, editor-in-chief of Gramophone magazine which commissioned the survey to mark its annual awards, said the results overturned preconceptions about classical music fans.

"All ages actively enjoy classical music, with the over-50s showing themselves to be particularly dynamic," he said.

"Not only do they prove that they have considerable purchasing power, buying more CDs than any other age group - an average 17 a year - but they are also technologically adept.

"We can see a whole new group of mature MP3 listeners - iPod oldies, perhaps - emerging who are far from old in their outlook."