How the Classical Music App Could Teach Apple Music a Thing or Two

Unless it just repeats all the same mistakes

  • The new Apple Music Classical app launches at the end of March.
  • It can be used as part of existing Apple Music subscriptions. 
  • It's iPhone-only and tailored to the needs of classical-music listeners.
Someone listening to music with headphones on and relaxing.

Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

Apple's Music app is not the most pleasant experience in the world, and now Apple is spinning off a classical-music version. Hopefully, this additional focus will find its way back to the regular music app.

Later this month, you can download the Apple Music Classical app. It is included in your existing Apple Music subscription. As you'd expect, it is designed around the quite different requirements of listening to classical recordings instead of albums or singles by lone artists or bands. It's an interesting move from Apple. If you are optimistic, you might even hope this signals a renewed interest in its music apps. 

"Classical music consumers often have distinct user needs. It's not enough for classical music fans to simply search for 'Beethoven Symphony No. 9.' These users want to have granular search parameters such as the ensemble, conductor, soloist, composer, and more. Additionally, classical music consumers like liner notes, which are typically reserved for physical albums only. The ability to read composer or conductor biographies in the same user experience will be a huge plus for users," Dr. Brandon Elliott, Professor of Music and Music Business at Moorpark College, told Lifewire via email. 

The Current State of Apple Music

Apple's Music App is a mess, partly because it is both a repository for your own music and a front-end to Apple's music-streaming service and partly because Apple doesn't seem to care about fixing the most basic user-interface bugs.

For example, if you leave the app and come back after a while, it doesn't remember where you left off. The app will reset to one of the main sidebar categories, so if you were in the middle of browsing for an artist, playlist, etc., you'd have to perform that search all over again. 

These users want to have granular search parameters such as the ensemble, conductor, soloist, composer, and more.

Also, you cannot hand off music from your Mac to your iPhone like you can with messages, Safari web pages, and many more Apple (and third-party) apps. And very often, one or more tracks go missing from an album, which underscores the fact that you are only ever renting this music. You never own it. 

We know very little about Apple's new Classical Music app other than what's on its App Store pre-order page. But if it is to be worth bothering with at all, then it at least needs to provide gapless playback (not putting a gap between songs or movements that run together) and remember exactly where you left off. Otherwise, Apple Music Classical will just be yet another silo that you have to negotiate. 

"Most listeners do not limit their listening to one genre only. The way Apple music exists as one app with many genres of music available right now, it's easy to click around to different genres and playlists. Opening a separate app to access another genre adds another step to accessibility, so my guess would be that Classical songs will get played less, with users preferring to stay within the app," Billboard-charting singer and songwriter Caley Rose told Lifewire via email. 

The rub is that if Apple manages to crack the seemingly-insurmountable problem of app state saving in the classical app, it will make the lack of it in the regular music app stick out even more. 

Closeup on a cello with sheet music on a stand and the rest of an orchestra in the background.

Mohamad Ridzuan Abdul Rashid / EyeEm / Getty Images

The Classical Music App Gets It Right

One of the neatest features of the new app is virtual liner notes. You can read composer biographies, notes about the works, and more. It's kind of like having the sleeve of the 12-inch record in front of you, so you can read as you listen. And it's this feature that really makes one miss an iPad version. Reading these notes on the large iPad screen would be much nicer than on the little iPhone.

And if you dig into the existing music app on your Mac, then you'll see that you can already view albums by work and movement simply by checking a box in the album's "Get Info" panel. 

This mixture of features and possibilities across platforms makes it seem like either Apple has been preparing this new app for a long time and has been testing features live, or that it's a half-baked mess which will just confuse us more. Hopefully, though, Apple Music Classical will be a pleasant surprise and maybe even a good omen for the future of the stock Music app.

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