Apple Acquires Classical Music Service Primephonic

Full details are here:

Of immediate note (emphasis mine):

Primephonic is no longer available for new subscribers and will be taken offline beginning September 7. Apple Music plans to launch a dedicated classical music app next year combining Primephonic’s classical user interface that fans have grown to love with more added features. In the meantime, current Primephonic subscribers will receive six months of Apple Music for free, providing access to hundreds of thousands of classical albums, all in Lossless and high-resolution audio, as well as hundreds of classical albums in Apple Music’s Spatial Audio, with new albums added regularly.

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  1. That seems like a super fast take down date. Usually when Apple buys something (like an app) there is a significant sunset, even if new subscribers are not allowed. After their acquisition of Dark Skies it was still a useful app for months.

  2. And before the inevitable “I’m all in on apple so this is fine with me, blah blah blah…” posts: I’ve not read much history where a small amount of companies or people owning the significnat majority of assets and / or distribution systems has worked out well for anyone other than the small amount of people or companies that do all the owning.

  3. Square got Tidal (as part of a larger NFT play?) Apple got Primephonic. Bets on who’s next?

  4. Please send coffee.

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I’m all in on apple, but this is not OK. Not a primephonic subscriber, but I had considered it, and from what I am reading, once something gets Spatialized, Apple says that a “stereo version” is also downloaded. But it’s not really talked about if anyone has messed with the stereo version. Mario Lanza in spatial surround??? Hmmmm

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It does seem that way.

My first pass through the announcement made me think they were only turning off the ability to start a new subscription on 9/7, but re-reading it clearly shows that’s not what it says.

From a pure content perspective, I can see a rapid shutdown being viable - assuming all the same works and versions are already (or will be) available on Apple Music by 9/7.

However, classical music enthusiasts (of which I am one) tend to be very much aware of just how badly mangled/handled the important aspects of metadata are by existing services and applications.

As a result, I can easily see there being lots of entirely-justified complaints about this.

I find this issue bad enough that I invariably just BUY my classical music in some form, and then fix up the metadata to the standards I need it to be at (and even then, not all players handle THAT properly).

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A major price and market share war is underway. Classical has a dedicated but older listener demographic. Apple is strong but one of many competitors, while Primephonic is in the “other” category.

With a rapid shutdown I’m guessing they weren’t making any money or growing, and Apple may have bought them for whatever their tech was worth.

Ugh. Although their web player was buggy, Primephonic was a godsend for classical music.

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I went to Idagio. I actually cancelled primephonic yesterday, wonder if I got in under the wire to still get the free apple music as technically Im paid up till next month.

It does seem like an odd thing to do to their subscribers, such a rapid shut down. I’ll see what apple does with this new app.

Idagio might actually be a better service than Primephonic when comparing features, just doesnt have high res, just lossless, if that matters to anyone. Cheaper than Primephonic is/was. I just couldnt deal with the constant streaming issues I started getting with Primephonic - stuttering, jumping around tracks, drops, just the maddening things that Idagio hasnt demonstrated any of yet.

So much for rumours of Roon integration for Primephonic, unless Apple is on a buying spree.

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Market share.

If history is a guide there won’t be room for more than 3 major audio subscription services. Today we have Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, Tidal, Qobuz and more.

Recent interface changes with my services suggest they may be pushing toward radio stations and burying albums and easy choices. The copyright owners likely want that too, so they can then promote who they want to promote and stuff cheap or new content into a set of 100 standard streams. Classical isn’t a big enough segment to have much influence.

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Unfortunately true. I do worry that it will be harder to dissect out the good stuff if things get consolidated. Im surprised Apple is actually creating a dedicated app, its an interesting thing to push. Maybe its some Apple executives pet project.

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I’m just (and speaking as a longtime heavy Apple user) hoping Apple stays far away from Qobuz.

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I don’t know how large the programming and strategy group at Primephonic is but it seems likely to me that its likely not very large. Clearly Apple has set an ambitious launch target and wants to get this new classical app out as quickly as possible. To do that they have take the relevant people from Primephonic and get them integrated with the Apple music team and get started on the project asap. There is surely a lot of work ahead for this new group. With the software engineers all working on the new app means there would be nobody to offer support and minor fixes for the current app and anybody who has worked with software knows how time consuming support can be. I have no problem understanding the rapid shutdown of Primephonic. I think offering current users a prorata refund and 6 months free Apple Music as a fair gesture. Except for Qobuz no other streaming service sees classical listeners as a viable market and as a Qobuz subscriber since the service started, its come a long way but still suffers from craziness like having Shostikovich’s music under several different spellings with albums only showing up in search if you guess the right spelling. I’m frankly surprised Apple is interested in the classical music listener but I’m hopeful if not fully confident that they’ll come up with something interesting.
I think unfortunately Qobuz and probably Tidal are too small to stay in business. The other thing that strikes me is that much of what Primephonic currently offers and what the new app will probably offer in terms of metadata, background info on composers and eras, linking to other albums which might interest, etc is the territory of Roon and if I were Roon I’d be watching what Apple is doing with a worried eye,

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Welcome! Qobuz may be small but don’t count out French ethnocentrism. I would not be at all surprised if Qobuz were under financial duress to see the French government subsidize or otherwise take a stake in the company.

Shostikovich? Spell it however you want, 'ee’s not, for example, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, or even Hector Berlioz.

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I’m not a historian but I can’t think of too many acquisitions by large companies of smaller “fan favorite” services where the result was anything remotely as good as the original service, especially in the music space.

Unfortunately I agree that music streaming, particularly niche-ish genres, is fundamentally dicey in terms of financial viability so in the end all that may be left is the scraps offered by the giants as part of a much larger ecosystem.

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Well, I was really worried about the loss of Primephonic, and I will miss some of its unique content. But, that said, I’m finding Apple not only has everything I’ve looked for so far, but that it is also easier to find albums than Primephonic. And its software is much easier to use and more reliable.

Is this the honeymoon before the storm? I imagine one negative repercussion will be in the way Apple compensates classical music artists, which could have the effect of drying up funding and incentive to record?