Apple bought classical music streaming service Primephonic in August 2021, and used it as the basis for its Apple Music Classical app, which launched in March 2023.

But the company’s orchestral ambitions haven’t ended there: this week it has acquired classical-music label BIS Records.

The Swedish label celebrated its 50th birthday this week, and its founder Robert von Bahr used the anniversary as the hook to announce the deal.

“BIS’s specialty, while paying our dues to the core repertoire, has been to nurture young classical artists and interesting living composers and to safeguard the musical treasure that we all represent long into the future,” he wrote on the label’s website.

“It is to that end that, after much careful consideration, and having just turned 80, I am excited to announce the rather momentous news that we have made the decision to become part of the Apple family.”

He went on to describe Apple as “the ideal home to usher in the next era of classical and has shown true commitment towards building a future in which classical music and technology work in harmony” and said that BIS will now become “part of Apple Music Classical and Platoon” (the latter being Apple’s artist-development subsidiary).

Every so often, down the years, there have been rumours that Apple would buy a record label. For example, it was reportedly in talks to buy Universal Music Group from its parent company Vivendi in 2003 for up to $6bn, although the deal never materialised.

As it turns out, Apple’s move into label-land is on a considerably smaller scale, in a very specific part of the market. Acquiring BIS Records is certainly an interesting move for Apple Music Classical, especially the access it brings to the young artists referred to in von Bahr’s announcement.

(They might even be a handy new source of mood music for the parent service, if Apple points some of those musicians at its peaceful-piano / choral / etc functional-music playlists…)

The deal may raise questions from other classical music labels, of course.

They’ll be watching closely to see whether the BIS Records catalogue is pushed on Apple Music Classical over their own – especially given the way the core repertoire is available across many separate recordings from different labels.

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