Apple acquires classical music app Primephonic as it pushes into the genre

The company says it will integrate classical-centric features into Apple Music, but also release a standalone app for fans of Primephone's interface.

Styria, Austria -August, 13, 2021: Brass music holds a outdoor concert.  A traditional custom in Aus...
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Apple is making a serious push into classical music. The company today announced that it has acquired Primephonic, a classical-music-focused streaming service.

As part of the deal, that service will shut down effective September 7, but Apple says it will incorporate Primephonic’s functionality and playlists into Apple Music.

Interestingly, Apple will also release a dedicated app for fans of Primephonic’s user interface sometime in 2022. That suggests the company is serious about appealing to classical fans, perhaps as a way to differentiate itself from Spotify and other competitors. Every company in the streaming audio business is tussling for market share, and offering the same catalog of music is no longer good enough. Services are important to Apple’s continued growth.

Underrepresented — Classical music has long been overlooked by streaming services — the genre is small compared to popular music which has big names and big budgets. And with many recordings poorly labeled and categorized, finding the recording you’re after can be difficult, especially if key information like composers’ or conductors’ names is missing. Services like Primephonic, which launched three years ago, have stepped into the fray to address this issue with much more detailed metadata. They also have exclusive catalogs of music in direct deals with orchestras.

Mass market — Primephonic says it sold to Apple because it would never reach as many listeners as it’d like without also offering a broader catalog of music. The service was $7.99 per month for the lowest tier, and all you’d get was classical — it’s easy to see why that would be a hard sell. Within the Apple Music ecosystem, users can listen to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Taylor Swift, all in one place.

But for current subscribers to Primephonic, shutting down before Apple’s alternative is ready is not a great experience (subscribers at least get prorated refunds and six months of Apple Music). Lossless audio is also poorly supported inside Apple Music, using the company’s own format that isn’t supported by Bluetooth headphones. The company has also been in the headlines for allegations of less than stellar treatment of its employees.

Still, the sale could be good for classical listening fans if Apple lives up to its promises and turns Primephonic into an Apple Music-level experience.