Apple Music: Another disappointing service for classical music listeners

I signed up for the free three-month trial of Apple Music. Do you want to listen to between 1/4 and 1/3 of the average work? If so, Apple Music is ideal. The “Classical” radio station on Apple Music picks tracks at random from five centuries of classical music. You’ll get one movement of a symphony followed by one movement of a chamber work composed a century later. Although it is nice that it is commercial-free, this is absurdly inferior to what you can get for free by streaming KING FM.


6 thoughts on “Apple Music: Another disappointing service for classical music listeners

  1. All of the streaming services (as distinct from streaming versions of on-air classical stations such as KING FM) are built around a pop-music model with classical as an afterthought. If you are playing pop music, it’s quite common and appropriate to mix and match single tracks (plus pop streaming “stations” are usually broken down into much finer categories – you are not going to get 500 years worth of pop music all mixed together). It wouldn’t be that hard for the streaming services to at least bundle the movements of a symphony together (assuming their licensing agreements even permit this) so you get the complete symphony instead of a single movement but even that is too much bother for what is probably 1% of their listenership.

    The beauty of the web was supposed to be that it would allow mass customization – instead of all the radio stations in your town being Top-40 or rap and none classical because that is the most popular format (and the 2nd most popular and the 3rd, etc.) you could have a streaming station that played not only classical but your particular favorite composers or periods. The reality is that even on the web, the effort goes to where the money is and money goes to where the masses are.

  2. there are different ways to use apple music.

    * listen to streamed radio stations
    * listen to curated playlists
    * listen directly to the library of music licensed and available through apple music
    * create your own playlists based on one of the above options

    i don’t know a lot about metadata for classical music, but i’d imagine there’s no reliable way to reflect that a station should play random tracks starting at some number and ending at another within an album to represent a full piece. maybe i’m wrong.

    i’d think the manually curated playlists would be the best option depending on availability.

  3. djk: You don’t think that it would be possible for Apple’s programmers to figure out, for example, how to play one album at a time for classical rather than one track? Presumably the tracks of an album were organized by the record company in some coherent way.

    Izzie: I’m aware that it would be more work for Apple to create a reasonable user experience for classical music listeners, e.g., at least a few lines of code to “play album” instead of “play track.” However, for a company like Apple that wants to maintain a brand known for a reasonable user experience I would think that the extra coding effort would be worth it. Otherwise Apple becomes just like most other companies: do a few things well, do a lot of things mediocre, do some things poorly. That’s not a recipe in the long run for maintaining a $750 billion market cap. You don’t open up Nonstop magazine (published by Gulfstream) and find a bunch of printing errors so that you wonder “perhaps they also made some mistakes in building this G650”. If Apple couldn’t do a half-decent job with classical music radio then their brand would be more valuable if they hadn’t offered it at all.

  4. I’m a traditional Irish folk musician. Our tunes are typically played in sets. It’s only by a lucky convention that CD tracks put tune sets together as a single track or no doubt traditional fiddle tunes would be the same mess that classical music is on all of these services.

    There’s no reason they couldn’t shuffle by album, except that, when the requirements were being put forward for building this, there undoubtedly wasn’t a single classical music fan in the room.

  5. As I mentioned before, I think there may be licensing restriction that keep Apple from feeding you entire albums at once on their “radio” type streaming channels. In any case, you don’t necessarily want an entire album – typically an album might contain 2 or 3 symphonies on a single disc. You would have to tag the album in such a way that you play all the movements of a symphony together but not necessarily an entire disc.

    From the company that produced the iphone this does not appear to be an insurmountable technical task but again I can’t emphasize how much classical music is a non-entity in today’s music market. The labels have mostly stopped recording and just reissue existing material. The average classical music listener is so old that even if he (or she) owns an iPhone, he doesn’t really know how to use it except as a telephone. As a person in my late ’50s, whenever I go to say a trendy restaurant, I feel ancient next to the other diners, but when I attend a classical music concert I feel as if I am a mere boy compared to the rest of the audience.

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