As anyone who reads this can attest, I’m a big fan of video game music, so seeing it garner slightly more mainstream attention is always an exciting thing. Perhaps the most well-known of these instances has been VGM’s inclusion in the Classic FM Hall of Fame ever since 2012. It’s something I’ve followed ever since the campaign began the fact that a wider audience has been exposed to the genre, and has led to the airing of a few one-off shows dedicated specifically to game music is a great thing for not only the fans but the composers too.
However, I have had some doubts as to just how seriously the station takes classical video game music as a part of the classical genre. I’ve mentioned in the past that their move to try and stop BBC Radio 3 from playing VGM wasn’t a pleasant move, but I’m also concerned that outside of an occasional special show there has barely been any airplay for this music since landing in the Hall of Fame.
So this year, I decided to carry out a little investigation to try and see exactly how much airplay video game music was receiving on the station. Obviously this would be a mammoth task if I were to analyse every single track from every day, so instead I focused on one show (or part of a show) – the Hall of Fame hour. in this hour, only the top 300 from the latest Hall of Fame is played, and as this includes 11 scores from games it means that there’s a set list of pieces to track (well kind of, more on that later) during a one hour window each day.
Obviously this isn’t a perfect way of tracking, as it doesn’t take into account music played before, after or during the day which may affect what is aired in the show, but it’s a starting point to work from to see if classical video game music really is getting any recognition during flagship shows. Three months in, and I finally have some results to share:
- Between March 29th and June 30th, 729 pieces of music have been played during the ‘Classic FM Hall of Fame Hour’.
- The most played entry from the Hall of Fame was Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances (position 293), featuring 13 times
- During this time, Mozart has been played more than any other composer – 36 times featured, from 16 entries in the Hall of Fame
- The piece sitting at the top of the Hall of Fame (Vaughn Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’ has only been played twice
- 63 entries into the Hall of Fame are yet to be played, including 15 composers who have had none of their works aired on the segment
- There are 7 entries from 4 female composers in the list, but all but one of the pieces played so far were from male composers
- On three ocassions, Classic FM have played pieces not from the current Hall of Fame
- Out of the 729 pieces played, just 3 have been video game music
The top 10 pieces and composers are as below:
For reference, the VGM pieces played were as below:
29th March – Shenmue (Yuzo Koshiro, Ryuji Iuchi, Nobuhiko Kashiwara)
31st March – Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (Jessica Curry, also the sole piece played on the show segment by a female composer)
2nd June – Journey (Austin Wintory)
As you can imagine, the results are a little disappointing for a number of reasons. First and most obviously, 3 out of 729 is not a fantastic return – VGM makes up 3.7% of the Hall of Fame, yet has a representation rate of 0.4%. Compare this to film music (6.3% of HoF, 5.2% of plays) and the difference becomes very stark. Grant Kirkhope and Nobuo Uematsu, both of whom have two entries in the hall of fame have not yet been played, with Uematsu’s work on Final Fantasy being the only entry in the top 30 yet to be played during the segment.
I was also quite taken aback by the distinct lack of airplay for female composers. Obviously classical music is historically very male dominated, but there are four very strong composers to choose from in this year’s chart, but even a Helen Jane Long. with 3 entries in the Hall of Fame, has yet to be featured during the show’s hour. I was also very surprised that there were three pieces played during this period which were not part of this year’s Hall of Fame, all in the space of three days (maybe Classic FM lost their list that week), but it’s a massive shame that even pieces not in the Hall of Fame are treated better than video game music and female composers that actually are there.
There’s a lot of analysis that can be drawn from the results, both here and overall, and I’ll continue to track this over the coming months to see if there’s any changes. But for now, there’s definite room for improvement and I can only hope I have better results for you down the line. I don’t expect them to play it every show, but I really would like to see it taken more seriously in the station’s regular hours. Anyway, enough nerdy statistics – let me know your thoughts below and where else you’d like to see VGM represented!