Apple surprised many by announcing that it has purchased Primephonic, one of the leading classical music streaming services. This acquisition could be a true milestone for classical music in the digital era.
Up until now, classical music lovers had to choose between subscribing to a multi-genre mainstream streaming service and often have a somewhat frustrating experience, with difficulties in finding different interpretations or recordings of the same composition and with lower than expected audio quality, or to subscribe to a classical-only streaming service but without the ability to listen to other genres. In a world where music has become such a key part of people’s live and where consumers have been used to access any songs at any time, it has become more and more difficult for genre-specific streaming services to appeal to a wider audience and go beyond the die-hard enthusiasts.
With Primephonic, Apple acquired key assets to differentiate through its classical music offering. Primephonic identified early on the value of metadata in the streaming era, especially for classical music. The company has heavily invested in developing one the most unique and complete classical music databases on the market, along with a dedicated search engine to ensure that its users could easily find the classical recording they are looking for. Apple will consequently be able to integrate this into its service and gain a significant advantage over its competition. In addition, now that Apple Music is offering lossless audio to its subscribers, it will be able to benefit from Primephonic’s extensive catalogue of high-resolution classical recordings, amongst the largest on the market. Through this acquisition, Apple should be in a unique position to appeal to classical music fans, but also provide a great way to introduce the genre to a wider audience thanks to its existing playlists but also Primephonic’s own playlists, editorial and podcasts.
Apple planning to launch a dedicated classical experience in 2022, which would integrate Primephonic’s metadata, search engine, playlists and exclusive content is consequently an important development for classical music. It could offer the best of both worlds, an addressable audience of over 80 million Apple Music subscribers according to Futuresource latest Streaming Music Report, and a best-in-class classical music experience without the compromises usually seen on other mainstream services. However, the risk of creating a dedicated app for classical music could be to isolate the genre from mainstream exposure and consequently miss-out on consumption from millions of casual listeners who exclusively listen to music within the main Apple Music app. To avoid this, Apple will likely have to create seamless crossovers between its main app and its dedicated classical app, or ensure that classical music is still well represented and populated in playlists and recommendations within its main app.
For the classical music industry, this move could be highly beneficial by driving mainstream discovery and consumption on classical music. Nevertheless, some questions remain whether Apple Music’s new app will integrate Primephonic’s royalty model, which was paying artists per second, due to the length of classical recordings - sometimes 40 min long, as opposed to the current streaming model used by services such as Spotify and Apple Music, which pay artists per stream (a stream is usually counted after 30 seconds of listening) and disregard whether a track is 3 or 20 minutes long.
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