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Apple Buys Classical Music Service Primephonic

Apple has purchased classical music streaming service Primephonic and will be integrating it into Apple Music and releasing a dedicated classical music app next year. Apple says:

With the addition of Primephonic, Apple Music subscribers will get a significantly improved classical music experience beginning with Primephonic playlists and exclusive audio content. In the coming months, Apple Music Classical fans will get a dedicated experience with the best features of Primephonic, including better browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire, detailed displays of classical music metadata, plus new features and benefits.

Primephonic is no longer open to new subscriptions and will be taken offline on 7 September 2021. Current Primephonic subscribers will receive 6 free months of Apple Music.

Our resident classical music buff, Kirk McElhearn, who has long been critical of how iTunes and the Music app handle classical music, calls the acquisition “very good news.”

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Comments About Apple Buys Classical Music Service Primephonic

Notable Replies

  1. We got an email from Primephonic and their staff is now working for Apple so the original developers will be doing Apple’s new app…subject of course to having to do things the Apple Way. Primephonic is refunding the remaining of your subscription payment and including 6 months of Apple Music in the deal…and Apple Music is about the same annual cost. Hopefully Apple will release a classical music app that actually makes sense for that genre of music.

  2. I take it this is a streaming service?

    [edit, Never mind, I just Googled it, and it is.]

  3. IIRC, I heard Jason Snell said on yesterday’s Upgrade podcast talking about this, and it sounded like Apple was planning to release an app (I assume either the current Primephonic app or a variant of it) specifically for classical music, because they realize their current apps don’t really work for classical.

  4. Pretty much anything will be an improvement. A few days ago I asked Siri on my HomePods to play a major Bach work, on the level of “The Art of Fugue” or the “Goldberg Variations” (I don’t remember exactly what). A work that Apple Music must have many different recordings of. What Apple Music chose was a jazzified, loosely recognizable version of the work, not what I wanted. I had to tell Siri to stop, get on my iPad, do a search of my library and use AirPlay to my HomePods.

  5. Yes…as you googled…but the advantage of it over the current Apple Music is that it is written with classical compositions in mind and not based on tracks and albums. Classical compositions have movements…which are designed to be heard in order and together…and beyond just getting an album in Apple Music their support for listening to classical music is pretty poor. We’ve been using Pandora until Andy Ihnatko talked about Primephonic on MacBreak Weekly a year or so back but Pandora has lousy search functions (at least in the free version) compared to Primephonic.

  6. Yes . . . I don’t stream any kind of music myself, but I have been using iTunes (and now Music app) to play my own ripped collection from a server for years, and had to do some re-jiggering to get it to play multi-movement works properly. I think that problem has been now been addressed in Music, but taking advantage of it appeared to require me to re-enter the metadata for 80 gigs . . . not.

  7. I’m not a Primephonic subscriber (I had not heard of it until yesterday). I am quite surprised though that the service is ending a week from now with no replacement anticipated for several months, and that current subscribers don’t seem upset about the dead zone. I would think that the smart play would be to keep the service running with minimal support until the replacement is ready, and then, in conjunction with an advertising push, offer a nice transition for Primephonic subscribers.

  8. Yeh…Apple probably insisted on that. I’m surprised they didn’t leave the current service online until Apple’s new app was ready…but apparently Apple wasn’t interested in that…and when Apple buys a little company there’s really no question as to who is driving the train and making the deals…their lawyers are always going to be better than the little guy’s.

    I’m actually unhappy with the taking the original service down before the new is ready…because Apple Music …for classical…is still pretty lousy, but we will have to deal with it.

  9. I’m rather pleased at this option, I’ve long given up on Apple Music for classical. But I dare say there are existing subscribers who are wintel/android users who are alarmed.

  10. Primephonic is available in 154 countries. They also have a plan that involves streaming via the web, which I doubt that Apple will want to continue. I’ll bet Apple now has a lot of complex legal, technological and content localization and intellectual property issues to deal with in this acquisition. It would be a bigger and much more expensive mess to resolve if they kept the both apps running simultaneously:

    I also think they bought Primephonic because they knew they have been weak in the classical genre, and that this would be another way to kick Spotify in the pants.

  11. Apple Music is available on Android and Windows:

    Apple’s revenue for Services has certainly been benefiting from this. If Steve Jobs hadn’t launched iPod and iTunes for Windows, Apple would never have become the powerhouse that it is today. And Services and iOS hardware’s revenue streams wouldn’t be anywhere near what they are without Android and Windows. Beefing up their classical catalog and services might even convince more Android and Windows fans to sign up for Music.

  12. Idagio has an incredibly broad classical music catalog. Hyperlinks display all artists with performances of a given work, all works performed by a given artist, all works by a composer, etc.

    The Premium+ subscription ($10/mo) offers streaming in lossless 16-bit, 44.1 KHz (Redbook) format using their Mac and iOS apps (Windows and Android, too). On mobile devices you can download tracks for subsequent listening without a network connection. The subscription cost is 30% higher if you subscribe via Apple’s App Store instead of Idagio’s website. The latter is a no-brainer as it includes access on all platforms.

    Since the enormous selection can be intimidating, the Browse option in the sidebar allows you to explore a “curated” (forgive the overused term) selection of works organized by period, genre, instrument or composer.

    The only idiosyncrasy is that the date indicated for reissued recordings usually is the reissue date, not the original recording date. This is a problem shared by other classical streaming sites.

  13. I’m a casual classical music listener. I hadn’t heard of Primephonic before this. But I have been using the Freegal service (via the local library) exclusively to listen to classical music albums (i.e. I don’t use Freegal for anything else). I stream it to external speakers using Airfoil (from macOS), or from the Freegal iOS app. I think it is quite good: it’s just like listening to CDs.

    The advantage of Apple running Primephonic is hopefully HomePods will be able to play tracks independently of computers/iOS devices. Not to mention the added value as a Apple One subscriber.

  14. Here’s another new Music development…two years after acquiring Shazam, Apple added an important feature for artists…the ability to identify music DJs are using in mix tracks. It will make it easier for the original artists to receive royalties and credit that they deserve. And listeners will be able to see the credits about what they hear.

    I suspect this is another reason why musicians tend to gravitate to Music. Apple not only pays better rates, they are expanding compensation opportunities.

  15. The announcement says the classical section will have better browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire. If only Apple would extend better searching to the non-classical music. Apple used to offer search by boolean combinations of artist, title, and label (and possibly other characteristics but it has been so long that I don’t remember all that was offered). Now, all Apple offers is “Search,” and if it finds your words anywhere relating to a song, accepts that song as a hit. In so many cases, that brings up so many extraneous hits that I hung onto the last OS version that supported that good search in hopes that Apple would bring it back before I had to upgrade. Alas, Apple did not, and still has not. I switched to purchasing my music from Amazon, which does have an Advanced Search. I would prefer to buy my music in Apple’s AAC encoding instead of Amazon’s MP3 but gave up because of Apple’s search.

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