A bit later than promised, Apple Music Classical has been released. A distinct app, at no additional cost for subscribers. M. G. Siegler seems a bit perplexed by Apple’s decision to launch as a separate app:
… they do, apparently, want to offer two music apps. So much so that they spent 18 months building a new app for Apple Music Classical. I’ve been using it since last night. It’s fine. It looks nice, as you might expect. But it’s also very similar to Apple Music. To the point where I’m honestly not sure why it took 18 months to launch it. Yes, yes, nothing is easy. But moving from Primephonic to Apple Music Classical, with the scaffolding of Apple Music already available to use, feels like a pretty straight shot.
You might have thought Apple didn’t want to do the work to retrofit Apple Music itself to fit this new classical music metadata, but I also have to imagine they could have done that in 18 months. And I have to imagine they could have figured out a UI to make it work. Maybe there would have been a special classical music section of Apple Music, for example, where the UI changed slightly to match the needs. Maybe the search in that section could have been even more tailored for classical music and different languages, etc. Maybe you could have even pinned that section to be a main part of the UI if you so chose. Hell, I want this for jazz music. And ambient music. And, most importantly, grunge music.A Classical Debate. Apple Music Classical. WTF. | by M.G. Siegler | Mar, 2023 | 500ish
I wonder what kind of plans Apple do have for its main music app. The user experience is quite inferior to Spotify, despite the much better audio quality. Maybe the base code is too old, and there is too much ‘technical debt’ to try ambitious things on it, like adding the new classical music metadata?
After all, the app we erroneously call “Apple Music” [AWECAM] was released in 2015 following the 2014 acquisition of the Beats Music subscription service (along with Beats Electronics). And Beats Music comes from the MOG service that Beats acquired in 2012.
Maybe AWECAM itself has to rebuilt from the ground up eventually. And maybe a separate Apple Music Classical (AMC) was necessary for now. I can only wonder if AMC isn’t also a foundational initial step for such an ambitious task.
(Maybe this explains why it took them 18 months to adapt an existing and functioning app??)
Matty Karas points to a deeper question that directly affects the life of listeners:
Things can get trickier for composers whose entire careers bridge the classical, experimental and pop worlds. You’ll find a handful of works and albums by PETER GORDON but you can’t click on his name because Apple doesn’t appear to recognize him as a classical entity. Or maybe its programmers just haven’t got around to adding him to the system yet? (In general, the offerings of artist pages and playlists seem a tad thin at launch; hopefully the service is continuing to build them out.)
These aren’t deal killers but they are problems to be solved, especially looking forward into a musical future that may not distinguish between pop, rock, hip-hop, jazz and classical quite so clearly and confidently as it used to. A bigger question will be whether, and how, to fully integrate the two services someday. Which service do you open in search of HANS ZIMMER? Will the answer depend on whether you want to listen to MAX RICHTER or SKRILLEX next? What if you want to explore both?Music REDEF March 30’s rantnrave://
I believe that the Apple Music team must have already had asked themselves similar questions. And it is not that much of a stretch to assume they have come up with very ambitious ideas to address exactly this kind of situation.
It would be very Apple to release a magical music service that completely transforms its interface depending on the type of music and the context on which is being played. “Apple Music” would have one look while the user is in the living room and quite another in the gym. And still another one while the user is at work. And so on.
There is of course the issue that developing this maybe require a lot of work, and many tries until getting it right. And Apple is not exactly lacking for ambitious challenges right now (cars, glasses etc.), so it may be hard to justify all the effort and risk.
The press release for ACM has an interesting quote from Oliver Schusser:
“We love music — that’s really what we’re all about — and classical music is foundational to music of all genres,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “Apple Music Classical is a dedicated app that is great for classical experts as well as anyone who is new to classical, with the largest classical music selection in the world, the very best search and browse capabilities, the most premium sound experience with Spatial Audio, and thousands of exclusive recordings. We believe this is the very best classical music streaming experience available anywhere, and for us, this is just the beginning.”Apple Music Classical is here – Apple
As the vice president of Apple Music and Beats says: “we love music” (historically true); “classical music is foundational to music of all genres” (interesting word choice); and “this is just the beginning” (fingers crossed).
Of course, so far we have mentioned only music on mobile phones. (ACM is available on iOS and is coming soon for Android, joining AWECAM over there). But “Music” is a very important app both on Mac and iPad.
As Siegler also noticed, Apple affirmation that ACM “was built exclusively for mobile” is very odd and atypical, considering all the effort Apple makes to bring more apps to both platforms.
Which devices is Apple Music Classical available on?
Apple Music Classical was built exclusively for mobile and is available on iOS with Android coming soon.https://learn.applemusic.apple/apple-music-classical
Classical fans who want to listen on their MacBook, iPad, or in their car can open Apple Music to enjoy the tracks, albums, and playlists they saved in Apple Music Classical, thanks to the shared music library.
Here we have to consider another angle. The Music app on MacOS is unanimously regarded to be in a dire state. On the AppStories podcast, in a episode appropriately called “Let’s Fix the Music App“, from August last year, John Voorhees expressed the theory that “Music was the next big app slated to move to Swift UI, but after Shortcuts [some MacOS Swift debacle we guess?], the brakes where put on that”.
So we are stuck with what John Gruber simply calls it “quite possibly Apple’s worst app“. In the same episode, Voorhees also speculates that the Music redesign could be deeply linked to the Primephonic deal, which had been announced one year earlier by that point.
If Apple never releases a much improved macOS music app, it will not be due to a lack of complaints from the press and users. (This video is hilarious: Your Product Sucks — Apple Music macOS review).
And finally there is the iPad angle, which is even more intriguing. Consider all the work the Apple is doing to establish a dominant position in the classical music field:
Expert Recommendations and Classical Insights
Apple Music Classical’s editors have created over 700 playlists to guide listeners through 800 years of music, and more will be added. Beginners can start with The Story of Classical audio guides, which blend expert commentary and selected works to introduce key composers, periods, instruments, and classical terminology. For devotees, there’s the chance to go behind the scenes of selected recordings as leading classical artists offer track-by-track audio commentary. Plus, every week, Apple Music Classical’s hand-picked Hidden Gems highlight a selection of lesser-known works, while Composer Undiscovered playlists bring a new perspective to famous names.
Additionally, Apple Music has partnered with many of the greatest classical institutions in the world — including the Berlin Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Opéra national de Paris, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Vienna Philharmonic — to bring Apple Music Classical listeners new, unique, and exclusive content and recordings at launch and beyond. Apple Music Classical will also host several live performances featuring a few of these incredible partners at Apple Store locations around the world as part of the Today at Apple programming beginning in March 2023. To sign up for Today at Apple events, visit apple.com/today.
Apple Music is also working closely with some of today’s most renowned classical composers, artists, and musicians to ensure that the app is empowering artists and engaging classical music lovers all over the world.Apple Music Classical is here – Apple
All I can think is that a sufficiently ambitious and well-executed Classical Music (or All Music) app might as well be in the cards. All this wealth of exclusive content, interactive features, partnerships with institutions and artists; live material, all this could surface beautifully on the iPad. Add-in robust multi-device/multi-room/multi-user support (a Roon acquisition perhaps?) and the new Music app for iPad could very well be the still missing iPad “killer app”.
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