Apple Music Classical to Debut This Month

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Over a year and a half after it acquired Primephonic, Apple has finally announced the release of the dedicated Apple Music Classic app for iOS, scheduled for 28 March 2023. You can “pre-order” the free app now.

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Here’s hoping this scrappy, up-and-coming developer will find a way to marshall the resources necessary to bring this service to the Mac and the iPad some day.

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I’m hoping for substantial improvements in metadata handling and the CD database. Metadata for classical CDs has been a mess since Day 1 of iTunes.

The other thing I wonder is how big the audience will be for this. I’m not a likely customer, given my own major investment in CDs I own (and have ripped.) I suspect a fair number of friends who are classical fans are similarly invested in CD libraries, rather than streaming services.

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It will also be interesting to see exactly how broadly they define “Classical”. Will it only include recordings of old music? Or will it include recordings of contemporary music by living composers? What about the music of someone like Philip Glass, who ostensibly comes out of the classical tradition, but has his own non-traditional ensemble and wouldn’t necc. be considered Classical? What the marketing world considers “Classical” can cover everything from Gregorian chants to music written last week. As soon as you start digging into the categorization of music, things get murky pretty quickly.

For this reason, even though I consider myself a classical music fan, I’m not sure I’ll be interested in this service. I’ve found that I already have so many CDs and purchased audio files, many obscure or out of print, that it’s easier to maintain my own library. But who knows, I could change my mind. It’s happened to me before.


Just to be clear, Apple Music Classical is a free app for Apple Music subscribers. It’s not a separate service.


For Apple Music subscribers?

So does that mean those of us with lots of classical music ripped from CDs but not subscribing to Apple “services” still have just Music for all our tunes?

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I’m a classical listener with a CD collection built up over several decades. I, too, used to be in the “who needs streaming” camp. But a few years ago, my mobile phone provider began including access to Tidal. I’ve grown to like streaming because streaming provides an easy and inexpensive way to explore and to hear music before buying discs.

For example, if I enjoy a piece at a concert, I can now listen to several recorded performances to decide which I like best prior to placing an order. Or for ballet, streaming is a fine way to get familiar with the music before a show.

So if Apple Classical does a good job of providing a UI and UX tailored to classical listeners and a broad and deep library, I will subscribe.


I’m cautiously optimistic.

I poured time and effort into ripping my very large collection of classical (and other) CDs into iTunes in 2005, ’06, ’07, and ’08, and spent the next decade or so listening from within iTunes. But I found the design problems of the app just got worse and worse, and by 2016 or so I found I was just listening to the radio most of the time because I couldn’t actually find anything anymore in iTunes.

I never had the time of day for streaming (initially, quality was not good and most service’s classical holdings were pretty miserable; later, most service’s classical holdings continued to be pretty miserable).

But then I became aware of Tidal (like @Halfsmoke) and Idagio. I found Idagio’s catalogue extensive and its interface intuitive, and have been a relatively happy subscriber now for several years.

In August of ’21, I discovered Primephonic and was overjoyed — it seemed almost perfect! And I subscribed! And before my first month was up, Apple bought them and shuttered the service. Grrr!

And that’s the reason for my cautious optimism: Primephonic really seemed to be doing things right. They clearly had an exhaustive and well-designed back-end database and an extensive catalogue, and it was clear they were doing even better than Idagio at making it easy to search for and access entire pieces of music comprising multiple tracks, regardless of whether or not there were other pieces of music on the same albums.

From what I’ve read, a majority of Primephonic’s staff was hired by Apple. If they’ve been left alone, I suspect they’ll try to one-up the service they were already providing, using Apple’s immense resources. That’s my hope, anyway.


My guess is that it will be big. I’m assuming that Apple will pay classical artists a significantly better fee per stream for artists like they already do as compared with Spotify, etc. And I’m very glad to hear that Apple isn’t charging extra for this service.


Another option for streaming classical music is that you might find you have free access to Naxos Music Library through your local public library. Check the eresources they offer, I’ve found this a great way to listen to new pieces or recordings that I might hear one movement from on the radio or elsewhere.


And the market may be bigger outside the US too. I know someone who runs a small niche classical record label, and a significant portion of their sales come from Asia and Europe. So Apple may be betting on a larger market in Japan and China and Europe out of this than here in the US.

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I suspect that they are already planning to open up more countries. Here’s a list of the companies that Apple Music is already available in:

If you have a large collection of your own ripped or owned music, you could consider Roon It’s a replacement for iTunes/Music, but so much more. Designed for audiophiles, but works for anyone. And now they have their ARC app that allows you to stream your own library anywhere.

Caveats - it’s a paid subscription service, you need a machine to act as the ‘core’ or server, and the ARC app/service is pretty solid but also relatively new, some bugs remain. CarPlay support is brand new and works but needs more development.

I’m serious happy with it though.


Like Erik, I was a Primephonic subscriber, and was upset when Apple pulled the plug on it. Then I discovered Idagio, and have been happy with that ever since (though I’d like more functionality in the app regarding playlist management).

I’m not interested in subscribing to Apple Music at large, but I’ve heard from one source that Apple Classical will be available on its own for $4.99/month for non-Music subscribers. I haven’t been able to verify that though.

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Another IDAGIO fan. I too have a large library of ripped CDs, but this streaming service allows me to keep up with more current performances along with varieties of music I would not have called classical back in the day. I told the friend who recommended it that it was the most expensive streaming service around!! They charge 9,99/month. I usually find two or three or so new albums to buy, mostly thru Apple, so an added expense…

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We’ll find out when it ships, but that seems likely given that the Apple Music Classical app is iOS-only for now.

I’m not sure I entirely understand many of the comments above. It’s not “either” ripping “or” streaming with Apple Music. I also have many ripped CDs, which were long ago loaded into iTunes using iTunes Match as it was then called. However, they live seamlessly with the huge catalog of other music now available through an Apple Music subscription, with more versions of the Eroica symphony than I could ever listen to. In fact, the sound quality of my ripped CDs was often improved if they matched tracks available in Apple Music. If I listen to BBC Radio 3’s Record Review, chances are that I can stream one of their recommendations immediately, something I could only dream of 20 or 30 years ago. There are a a few labels, like Hyperion, who refuse to make their music available for streaming for justifiable economic reasons, and I would be prepared to pay for a premium service if it was enough to satisfy them, but I think the days of ripping CDs are long past for most people.

No, the question is if people need to buy a subscription service from Apple to be able to use the new specialized app to sort and search their classical music properly. And, unfortunately, it appears so. :frowning:

Surely people didn’t expect Apple to generate huge metadata databases just to enable people to catalog their own ripped CDs for free. Of course, it was always going to be part of the Apple Music subscription. I presume that, as with the current Apple Music apps, it is up to us to add our own metadata to ripped CDs, although I would guess that there will be additional fields added to the “work/movement” fields now available.

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Yes, but the question will be whether ordinary users will have access to better metadata for matching their (previously ripped) CD collection. The other big IF is metadata for Opera DVDs and the like. When you rip the latter, you appear to be at the mercy of the (often cryptic) file names on the DVD and are left to rename and tag (without a decent source) the converted movies. Sigh.