Apple Music Classical shows Spotify's weakness for the genre

Apple Music Classical
Apple Music Classical Copyright Apple Music
By Jonny Walfisz
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Think Spotify is perfect? The launch of Apple Music Classical has shown all the ways the biggest music streamer is lagging behind.

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What is Apple Music’s new classical streaming service, and why should you care?

If you didn’t already know, Apple has just launched its latest app Apple Music Classical, and it intends to revolutionise the way we consume classical music. 

For those reading with subscriptions to main rivals Spotify, Tidal or even classical specialist Idagio, you may be wondering what Apple has done that makes this announcement such a big deal.

First and foremost, Apple Music has set out to solve one of the biggest issues for any classical music fan on streaming services. When you want to listen to a specific song by a pop artist, the way you proceed is currently pretty straightforward. You search the song and hit play. If you’re looking for a specific album, you can always just as easily scroll through your preferred artist’s discography until you find the right one.

That process isn’t so simple when it comes to classical music

Say you want to listen to a specific piece - for example Mozart’s ‘Lacrimosa’. Type that into Spotify and you’ll find an almost endless list of different musicians who’ve recorded their own version of the piece. Go onto Mozart’s artist page and the number of albums attributed to the composer is staggering.

In short, the way typical streaming platforms categorise classical music makes it a nightmare to find consistent collections of a composer’s work, specific recordings by classical musicians, and playlists that put together flowing works instead of multiple recordings of the same pieces.

“Apple Music Classical has redesigned search to instantly deliver exactly what users are looking for using all combinations of keywords, from composer and work, to opus number, conductor, artist, or instrument, and even a work’s nickname,” explains the company press release.

Apple Music
The Apple Music Classical interfaceApple Music

“I’ve been working with Apple to help solve the problems of classical music streaming,” says Radiohead guitarist and composer Jonny Greenwood. “They’ve come up with a really elegant set of solutions to the unique problems that hinder the search for - and collection of - digital classical music.”

“Put simply, there’s only one recording of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue,’ but thousands of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ This first kind of search, in someone newly interested in classical music, can be so off-putting and bewildering, so I’m very excited for everyone to finally have a way into this remarkable universe of music, which is welcoming to new (and old) classical fans, and which rewards enthusiasm for music with music, directly and intuitively,” Greenwood added.

Improved categorising isn’t all that Apple Music Classical is offering though.

It also comes with the biggest streaming library of classical music with five million recordings, compared to Spotify and Idagio’s two million.

Rob Grabowski/Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP
Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead performs on day 2 at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Friday, July 29, 2016, in Chicago.Rob Grabowski/Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP

The scale means a classical mega-fan will be catered for better than ever before, while Editor’s Choice curation will help any beginners get to grips with new composers or specific eras. To help out everyone, the platform also provides biographies, exclusive artwork, and audio guides for over 800 years of classical music.

Oh, and high quality streaming of up to 24 bit/192 kHz doesn’t hurt, either. 

All of this comes with any existing Apple Music subscription, so there’s no additional fee for anyone already using the service.

The new platform is the result of consultation with fans and classical musicians. Alongside Radiohead guitarist and Oscar-nominated composer Jonny Greenwood, Apple Music also asked famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma for insight.

“Classical music - and all of culture - is fundamentally about connection, about forging bonds of understanding across time and space,” said Yo-Yo Ma. “It’s innovations like this that make that connection possible, that give us space for our curiosity to run, to rediscover the familiar, and to rejoice in the unexpected.”

As for Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, it boils down to the following: “We love music - that’s really what we’re all about - and classical music is foundational to music of all genres.”

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Maybe this announcement is a big deal after all.

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