If we’d told you at the start of this year that Apple would be buying another music streaming service at the end of summer, how many people would have guessed that it would be Primephonic? Yet that’s exactly who it is: Apple has acquired the classical music streaming service, and while it is shutting down in the short term, it will be returning early in 2022.
“With the addition of Primephonic, Apple Music subscribers will get a significantly improved classical music experience beginning with Primephonic playlists and exclusive audio content,” announced Apple. “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 put a date on that relaunch. “We are working on an amazing new classical music experience from Apple for early next year, but unfortunately, the Primephonic service will be taken offline starting September 7. You may continue to use it at no charge until then,” the company announced. Its users will also get a six-month free trial of Apple Music.
Classical music has proved famously tricky for the big streaming services to get right, thanks to the specific challenges around metadata and catalogue navigation referred to in Apple’s statement. Well, in some other ways it’s been simple: peaceful piano instrumentals, for example, are a staple of the DSPs’ mood playlists, and they fall under the banner of ‘classical’ as much as the famous symphonies do.
Primephonic’s streaming service originally launched in 2017 as an extension of an existing classical music downloads store. It has innovated in several ways: for example, it has launched podcasts that blend talk with music, and CEO Thomas Steffens told Music Ally last year that those shows “are our most popular content: they are more popular than playlists, and more popular than normal albums”.
For more context on what Apple is buying, you can read that article, which was based on a roundtable hosted by Primephonic to discuss trends around classical and streaming. You can also watch the recent classical-focused episode from the BPI and Music Ally’s Music & Tech Springboard Programme, which saw classical labels talking about the trends they see.
The hope for the classical sector will be that Apple’s move – including the relaunched Primephonic experience – may spur its rivals to put even more effort into their own classical offerings. In terms of streaming market share, even with all those peaceful pianos, classical music is still very small. However, that means increased competition between DSPs could have a noticeable impact very quickly.