How Apple’s Purchase of Primephonic Could Benefit Classical Music Lovers

More Bach than bass

Key Takeaways

  • Apple’s recent purchase of Primephonic will give Apple Music subscribers access to a higher-quality catalog of classical music, experts say. 
  • Primephonic offers many advantages over other streaming services, including very high-quality audio and a better search function. 
  • Idagio and Qobuz are two other streaming services aimed at classical music fans.
woman playing piano

Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

It can be hard being a Bach lover in a Beyoncé world. 

Streaming services often cater more towards pop and other genres than classical music, but Apple recently announced it has acquired Primephonic, a classical music streaming service that offers innovative features. Experts say the move could bring more options to classical music listeners. 

"Apple is aware of the consumer demands for classical music, and Apple has publicly stated that they are committed to providing dedicated features specific to classical music," Brandon Elliott, a music professor at Moorpark College, told Lifewire in an email interview. "These advanced features will likely benefit all listeners."

Fancy Features 

Apple plans to merge Primephonic with its Apple Music service. Primephonic has stopped accepting new customers and will go offline on September 7. 

Apple said in a press release that it’s working on "combining Primephonic’s classical user interface that fans have grown to love with more added features."

The new features will include more detailed displays of classical music metadata and improved browsing and search capabilities. Users also now will be able to browse by composer and repertoire. 

Searching for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is not enough for a majority of classical music listeners.

"We love and have a deep respect for classical music, and Primephonic has become a fan favorite for classical enthusiasts," Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, said in the press release. "Together, we’re bringing great new classical features to Apple Music, and in the near future, we’ll deliver a dedicated classical experience that will truly be the best in the world."

Better-Sounding Tunes

Primephonic offers many advantages over other streaming services, including very high-quality audio, Berklee College of Music professor George Howard told Lifewire in an email interview. It also provides an extensive catalog of classical music, including some obscure works. The curated playlists and "decent" interface also will be a bonus for listeners, he said. 

Some Primephonic "users will object to the change generally (because people don’t like change), and if these users’ playlists do not transfer over to Apple, they will be rightly upset," Howard said. 

Primephonic also offers a better search function for classical music. Elliot said that the most significant limitation of current steaming services for classical music fans is the inability to refine searches. 

"Searching for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is not enough for a majority of classical music listeners," he added. "They want to search for the Beethoven Symphony No. 9 conducted by Claudio Abbado from the Salzburg Festspielhaus 1996 performance, for example. Or they want to search by a particular time period, stylistic genre, or soloist name."

The search function built for most streaming platforms is based on the preferences of popular music listeners, Nathan Wolek, a professor of digital arts and music technology at Stetson University, told Lifewire in a phone interview.

"Popular music consumers search for the artists who recorded the song, and they don't typically search for the composer of a specific track or the arranger or the producer," he added. "And so, the artist is kind of foregrounded as the recording artist. And that's a little bit different in classical music where you care not just about the artist, who is the composer of the work, but also the artist who is the performer of the work."

Violin players in orchestra

Hybrid Images / Getty Images

Classical music listeners also often enjoy reading the liner notes, "especially for vocal works with text, but also to see the names on the vocal or instrumental musician rosters," Elliott said. 

Of course, Primephonic isn’t the only game in town. Howard said other options for classical music lovers include Idagio, Naxos, and Qobuz

"Qobuz is likely toast given that their competitive advantage was all about sound quality, and now Apple has mostly matched it," Howard said. "Naxos is expensive and is an outgrowth of their label/publishing company, and seems more focused on education/institutions. Idagio is a decent product in terms of curated/exclusive content and sound quality, but their catalog is relatively small."

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