Why Apple Music fails with classical music

Jan 11, 2017 · 4 min read

Music streaming services have revolutionized the way we listen to music. It has never been easier to search for new songs or discover new music. However, that only holds true for pop music, not for the genre of classical music. While Apple Music already started in June 2015, they have not thought about the needs of the classical music community. Even though a huge catalog of great classical recordings is offered, Apple Music fails to provide these classical pieces to the user in an appropriate way. Let me tell you why.

Screenshot: Apple Music library categories

Library and catalog search: a maze instead of amazement

The most important feature of libraries and catalogs is that both help you to find what you are looking for. In scientific libraries, there are lots of ways to refine your search, for instance with tags or categories. Apple Music sorts music by the following categories: playlists, artist, albums, titles, videos, genres, compilations and composers. This way Apple Music provides a smart tool to find and sort your pop or rock music library.

The world of classical music is a little more complicated than the world of pop music. Many recordings of the same classical pieces exist.

Just think of Verdi’s “La Traviata”. This opera has an own Wikipedia entry which lists 29 different recordings of the piece and this is just a partial discography. The major distinction of classical pieces lies in categories that are not provided by Apple Music or that are ordinarily summarized in the artist section: conductor, orchestra, soloist/ cast, opera house and year.

Playlists: Classical music for people who hate classical music

One of the central assets of streaming music services are playlists. But Apple’s playlists are flawed. Let us have a look at what Apple Music offers. The Playlist “Classic: Dinnerparty” rather addresses people listening to classical music occasionally than real classical music enthusiasts — that is okay, but not what I am looking for. The next list: Guest curator Anna Netrebko recommending her own works in her own playlist — somehow unexciting. Last but not least: the “Richard Wagner Essentials” playlist. A mash-up of arias and overtures of different operas in a totally senseless way.

Resumed: Apple could do better. At least there are lots of interesting and top-class albums in the “new music” section. This feature is really well-made and an opportunity to discover new recordings!

Screenshot: Apple Music album view

Enjoying a symphony? Getting annoyed by breaks between the tracks!

The idea to write this article came up while listening to Richard Strauss’ “An Alpine Symphony” — which, by the way, was one of the first recordings to be pressed on compact disc.

The piece consists of twenty-two continuous sections and lasts typically 50 minutes, depending on the performance. In a recent recording, the piece is split up in 22 short tracks, the shortest 16 seconds, the longest 6:05 minutes. So far, so good.

But now Apple Music comes into play: It pushes a break of one second in between the tracks. This is an absolute outrage! I find these breaks in the middle of a thrilling, highly emotional classical symphony to be annoying — they are destroying the concentration and pleasure of the listener.

Screenshot: IDAGIO search section (iOS)

Are there any alternatives? Yes, help is on the way!

A startup from Berlin realized the unsatisfying situation described above and offers a streaming service which is optimized for the classical genre: IDAGIO cannot compete with the huge catalog of Apple Music, but its usability compensates that penalty.

It offers lots of useful categories for your search, even instruments, epochs and classical music genres like chamber, opera or secular vocal are included. A real highlight: IDAGIO provides a feature where it suggests music depending on what mood you are in. A great way to discover new classical music in every situation!

The lesson is clear: Apple Music strongly needs to improve the classical music section — maybe even create a separate app for classical music — otherwise it will lose classical music enthusiasts to other streaming services steadily joining the race. Your move, Apple.

What do you think? Are you using music streaming services to listen to classical music? Which alternatives to Apple Music can you recommend?

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