Apple to drum up a streaming app for classical music

Apple says it will roll out a “significantly improved classical music experience” following its acquisition of the soon-to-be-shuttered Primephonic.

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Apple Music subscribers who follow classical music are in for a treat, with Apple announcing Monday that it’s poised to launch an improved, “dedicated experience” for classical music lovers after its acquisition of Primephonic, a classical music streaming service.

That’s the good news; the bad news is that Primephonic, which has developed a small but dedicated following of classical music aficionados, will no longer accept new subscribers, and it will drop its baton altogether on September 7, only a little more than a week from now.

In the near term, Apple Music subscribers can look forward to additions such as curated Primephonic classical music playlists and “exclusive audio content,” Apple says, while a “dedicated experience” with “better browsing,” searching by composer and repertoire, and—best of all—”detailed displays” of metadata tailored for classical music will follow in the “coming months.”

The new, “dedicated experience” will come in the form of a separate classical music app that "combines" Primephonic's interface with "more added features," according to Apple.

Unlike other genres of music in which you have an artist, an album, and a series of tracks, classical music adds composers, compositions, and movements to the mix. When you try to cram all that metadata into fields intended for contemporary music genres, the result is generally clunky and chaotic, particularly when it come to search and shuffles.

By creating a whole new app based on the Primephonic streaming service, Apple Music could avoid the classical music pitfalls that plague its competitors, while adding (as Apple notes in its press release) such features as expert recommendations and “extensive contextual details on repertoire and recordings.”

Of course, any excitement about a dedicated classical app for Apple Music must be tempered by the fact that Primephonic will abruptly shut down next week.

In an email sent to its subscribers, Primephonic promised to refund users for the remaining days in their subscription. Apple also said it would give current Primephonic users six months of Apple Music access for free.

Even so, plenty of Primephonic subscribers expressed their displeasure at the sudden announcement. 

“Uuuuugh,” tweeted one Primephonic user. “I really love Primephonic. Carefully curated, passionately put together playlists...gone.”

We reviewed Primephonic back in 2017, when the service only offered web-based streaming and CD-quality tracks. At the time, we called it a “supremely satisfying experience” that was “slick, smart, and organized in the way classical music fans demand.” Since our initial review, Primephonic rolled out an app and support for 24-bit audio.

Updated shortly after publication to add more detail about Apple Music's upcoming classical music app, as well as how Primephonic users will be compensated now that the service is being shuttered.

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