Apple Music Classical

So close, yet so far.

Today Apple launched Apple Music Classical, a dedicated app that is part of Apple Music for streaming classical music. It’s… weird.

First, I think the idea of a separate app (or even service) for classical music is absolutely great. Classical doesn’t really fit with how popular music gets organized (artist, album, track), and trying to make it fit just causes confusion. Classical music (really “western art music” of which has a classical period) differs from popular music in that the composer and the performer(s) are (usually) distinct and a piece (usually) get’s performed by many different performers. This means there ends up being many (sometimes many) recordings of a single piece and it can be hard to distinguish them. [1]

Apple Music Classical aims to solve at least some of those issues by making a dedicated app that can have it’s own navigation structure and metadata hierarchy that better aligns with how classical is generally handled. I think it succeeds at that, but it’s the rest where it kind of falls flat. Here are some of the oddities I’ve noticed:

  • It’s iPhone only. There’s no iPad app, no Mac app, and no CarPlay app. There’s also no Apple TV app, though that doesn’t affect me much since I lack an Apple TV. This is something I would assume is table-stakes for Apple. They consistently are selling a cross-platform developer story yet here’s a brand new iPhone-only app. I can only hope there’s other versions coming soon.
  • Your library is shared with Apple Music. That means anything you save is also saved to your Apple Music library. This can make your Apple Music library become a mess, and very quickly. I’ve love a option to keep the two separate. [2]
  • No downloads. I can live with this, but it’s a weird omission since all of the music is also available in the main Apple Music app. Where it can be downloaded for offline listening. What‽

Overall I do like Apple Music Classical. It’s a good way to listen to classical music and the UI improvements it makes are very welcome. I particularly like browsing a composers works and seeing all of the various recordings of a single piece. I also love that the now playing screen shows the title on more than one line. [3]

I just feel like Apple could have done better at launch. If Spotify weren’t so busy messing around with anything-that-isn’t-music, I’d be excited to see what they could do to match this. As is stands, they’re more interested in podcasts, audiobooks, and video content so do anything with music. It’s a shame, really.

Photo by Brian Matangelo on Unsplash.

  1. There’s also more complexities with pieces with multiple movements which are sometimes broken out as separate tracks when the piece is generally treated as a whole, and sometimes the opposite happens. Then there’s the many, many opus numbering schemes. And then there’s music that could be considered classical but is treated as popular (and the reverse, too). Music is a mess. ↩︎

  2. My way around this has been to save only “works”. Only albums and songs get included in the main Apple Music library so a saved work doesn’t appear in the main Apple Music app. ↩︎

  3. That title thing should be in all music apps, by the way. ↩︎