Apple Acquires Primephonic to improve Apple Music’s classical offering

Classical music streaming service cracked a problem that mainstream rivals have so far failed to

David Phelan
Monday 30 August 2021 18:20 BST
(Getty Images)

Apple has just announced a new acquisition: the highly respected classical-music only streaming service, Primephonic. It means that Apple Music subscribers will have an improved classical experience.

That’s because search in classical is very different from the song, composer or album search that suffices for most tracks. Primephonic says there are eight parameters to help you instantly find the piece of music you’re looking for… “Classical music’s structure has typically 8 parameters: Mozart’s (1) Seventeenth (2) Piano (3) Concerto (4), the ‘andante’ movement (5), performed by Lang Lang (6) and the Wiener Philharmoniker (7), conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (8).

This was something that only Primephonic had cracked, so the same experience is destined to come to Apple Music, too.

It won’t be there instantly, though Oliver Schusser, Apple’s VP of Apple Music and Beats, speaking to The Independent, hoped it would be there by early next year.

“I’ve always believed there was a reason why the classical section was different. If you went to a store like an HMV on Oxford Street, or other big stores, the classical section was always different, a different décor, different lights, and a much more curated experience. And so, we’ve been looking at replicating that, and we’ve been looking around in the market, and we’ve been super impressed with Primephonic, because we think they’ve solved this problem.”

In a week’s time, Primephonic will be folded into Apple Music. Subscribers will be given a rebate for any unused days, plus six months of free Apple Music. Their personal playlist data will be sent to them and Apple will provide information on how to put them into Apple Music. If this proves too complicated, Primephonic’s customer services will do it for the customer.

Will classical devotees want to switch to a music service where you’ll have to wade through other kinds of music to get to your precious Mozart or Mahler? After all, it’s not like they’ve got the choice of just sticking with the app they have now. And the special search features of Primephonic won’t be available in Apple Music immediately. Apple is working with Primephonic to put it in place but it will take time. Schusser says that it shouldn’t take long and will be there by the beginning of next year.

Schusser also says that the design when Primephonic subscribers move to Apple Music will be familiar: they’ll get a link which will take them to “a world that will look like Primephonic, with appropriate branding, where you can find all the service’s playlists.

Schusser also says that there will be greater localisation than Primephonic had, where much of the content was in English only. And in the longer-term, the problem-solving that Primephonic did for classical could be applied to jazz as well, where similar problems exist. Additionally, where the standalone service charged an extra £5 a month for higher-quality streaming, Apple makes no extra charge. And certainly those subscribers who also had an Apple Music membership will be saving money immediately, not to mention the six months’ free.

Schusser won’t say how much it paid for Primephonic, though I think it’s safe to say it was rather less than the $3 billion it spent on Beats, not least because that was the biggest acquisition Apple has ever made.

People don’t always like change, but Schusser says he believes the new service will be great: “It will be an experience that I’m convinced classical enthusiasts will say is a superior experience compared to any other service in the world.”

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