Apple has acquired Primephonic, the classical music streaming service, for an undisclosed amount, the company tells Billboard. The Dutch startup, which maintains offices in Amsterdam and New York, will shut down its service on Sept. 7, with plans to launch a dedicated experience for classical music fans in 2022.
“One of the things I always wanted to do is to provide a more complete and better experience for classical enthusiasts and fans in digital,” says Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vp Apple Music and Beats. “We’ve been looking in the market, trying to find people who have solved this problem to a certain extent and can help us to build that experience within Apple Music, and we really loved what Primephonic was doing. They’re super-passionate about classical, they really have a lot of experience in that genre and understand exactly what the challenges are, and from the moment we met them, we felt like there was really great chemistry.”
Primephonic initially gained popularity as the go-to streaming service for fans of classical music in the U.S., U.K. and The Netherlands, where it initially operated before expanding globally in 2019. The streaming service has offered a high-fidelity option and improved search and browsing capabilities for fans of classical music, normally an afterthought on traditional streaming services.
“Primephonic has always been a very mission-based, purpose-driven organization to create a better future for classical music in a digital era,” says Thomas Steffens, Primephonic’s co-founder and CEO. “To scale it to a global level with millions of users, we needed a partner with a much better reach than we have. Among those we really have felt Apple to be the best partner, they’ve always been the most serious about classical music and have a strong commitment to quality which really overlaps with the typical discerning classical audience. We really believe that this transaction will accelerate the degree to which classical listeners worldwide stream their music.”
Current Primephonic subscribers will be offered a six-month free trial of Apple Music and will have the ability to port their playlists over to Apple Music. Primephonic’s most popular playlists have also been brought over to Apple Music to provide an easier transition for those customers.
Schusser and Steffans both agree that a dedicated offering is needed for classical music fans to fully embrace streaming, and one that can offer features like browsing and search capabilities by composer and by repertoire, along with improved metadata, features that aren’t common in services geared toward popular genres like hip-hop, pop and dance music.
“First from the metadata perspective, to search and recommend classical music adequately it really requires fundamentally different streaming products,” Steffens says, noting how algorithms and databases are setup for Primephonic are unique. “Classical users and listeners care more about audio quality; they care more about contextual information. From both perspectives, there is a strong need to really design and craft a streaming service for classical music in a different way than for most other music genres, which is why we intend to return as a separate app in 2022.”
Apple says that new app will combine Primephonic’s classical user interface with a slate of new features once it is available next year.