Over the past two years the scale and pace of change brought about by the pandemic has pressed fast forward on long held ambitions at ABRSM to create more opportunities for music learners and teachers. Sometimes the speed at which we’ve rolled out these changes has been challenging, and like many other organisations we’ve had to undergo immense change ourselves. Music and musicians are still at the heart of everything we do and that’s why we’re sharing more background here on our review of price increases, which will apply from 2022.
At the start of the first lockdown in the UK, our long-established method of delivering exams ground to a halt across the world. For many in our wider musical community - learners, teachers, examiners and musicians of all kinds - lessons, music making and live performances abruptly ended too. Suddenly we were all tasked with adapting to a new digital world of teaching, learning and sharing music. At times these changes have been hard to embrace but there are some aspects of this new digital approach that feel transformative, like real opportunities. A world in which we all move easily between digital and live, physical experiences has become the norm and we’re seeing it in every part of our lives.
For ABRSM this meant rolling out new digital exams almost instantly. We’d been working on Performance Grades and online Music Theory exams for some time but hadn’t anticipated launching them at speed during a pandemic. Some of you will have experienced huge frustration with us as our systems have struggled to keep up with demand. In recent months we’ve adapted our systems, we’ve made changes to our website and our booking service, we’ve streamlined our processes and we’ve introduced features to make things smoother and to offer greater flexibility, with more improvements to follow.
We recognise that this will be an ever-ongoing journey and that investments of this kind will be our new normal. However, that development doesn’t happen without a cost and so we have been reviewing our prices.
When it comes to Performance Grades, which are here to stay, we’ve listened to your feedback and Performance Grades will be priced lower than Practical Grades, which will return in many countries next year. Unfortunately though, our online Music Theory exams are seen as Electronically Supplied Services and are subject to VAT in the UK and VAT or GST elsewhere. While we absorbed this tax during the rollout of these exams, this is not something we can sustain long-term. Consequently, from, January 2022, where applicable, sales tax will be applied to the online Theory Grades. To mitigate the impact, prices for online Theory Grades will remain static in most regions where the tax is applied.
We recognise that we’re part of a world of choice and we understand that what we do has an impact on our wider musical community. Therefore, to mitigate some of the price increases, we will be introducing bursaries and extending our charitable giving to include more grassroots music charities. We will also continue to support music teachers and learners by investing in the future through technology and resources.
We believe that the innovations we’ve introduced help us to support you and help you choose the right path for your own musical journey, be it through graded music exams or other ways of engaging with musical progression. For many learners, these changes have provided an opportunity to try something new. It is heartening to hear the personal stories from the many musicians who have done so. We want people to have a rich musical life and to make progress in a way that’s right for them. For some this will mean focusing on a range of practical skills, for others performance is where they’ll shine. More choice means you can find the right way to nurture your love of music and for us, developing more options means broadening participation, meeting more learners along the way. We hope that by offering more choices and flexibility to suit a widening range of learners we’ll inspire more people to experience the joy of music making for themselves.