Classical music fans now have their own Apple Music service, as Apple Music Classical launches down under… with a few quirks.
What is Apple Music Classical?
It’s Apple’s streaming music service, with a focus on classical music. It pretty much does, in fact, do what it says on the tin. It’s essentially built on the bones of an older classical music app, Primephonic, that Apple bought a few years ago.
How much does Apple Music Classical cost?
Well now, that depends. If you’re an existing Apple Music subscriber (or you get it through an Apple One subscription package) then it’s technically “free”, because it’s basically part of the Apple Music package.
If you’re not, and you fancy getting your Beethoven on, Apple Music currently runs $12.99/month for individuals, $19.99/month for families or $6.99/month for students.
There is a cheaper tier, Apple Music Voice at $5.99/month, but that tier does not get Apple Music Classical as part of the package.
I don’t care about your Taylor Swifts or Dua Lipas or whatever. Can I just subscribe to Apple Music Classical?
So why have a separate classical music app?
Apple’s pitch here is that the needs and wants of classical music fans are a little bit different to the devotees of pop, grunge, metal or hip-hop.
Specifically, Apple Music Classical allows for searching not only for composers or recording artists, but also movements, soloists and even nicknames for pieces.
There’s also the promise of deeper dives into the recording of specific pieces, and all-new artwork for some of them as well.
Update: A little feedback from the one and only Stilgherrian (writer, commentator and erstwhile classical music radio presenter) on this. I’m not that much of a classical fan, but I feel like he makes a good point here:
…The key thing is that classical music isn’t structured by artist / album / track. It’s about composers and performers.
Yes, you can look for Hilary Hahn’s performances of Bach’s partitas for violin, but you then don’t just play “track two”. You play the whole piece.
Composers matter. But people into pop don’t generally look for “Songs written by Harry Vanda”.
The tl;dr is that the structure is different.
So, even if the content is the same as Apple Music, you do want that whole different menu structure on top.
Apple Music Classical also supports Apple’s spatial audio features, though you’ll need compatible headphones or speakers to get the full benefit there.
We also discuss Apple Music Classical on this week’s episode of Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News — go and give it a listen!
So I can listen to Apple Music Classical wherever I’ve got Apple Music?
Well… no. At least, not right now.
Right now, Apple Music Classical is only available for iOS devices as a free app. Apple says it’s working on an Android app, and presumably also a MacOS app and iPadOS app too.
There’s another quirk to bear in mind here. Apple Music classical requires an internet connection to work. You might think, well, OK, it’s a streaming music service, no biggie, right?
The truly odd catch here is that there’s no offline/download support within the Apple Music Classical app itself… though there is a workaround.
Huh? I can’t download my favourite pieces? Or can I?
Not yet, through the Apple Music Classical app. No, I don’t know why Apple’s made that call, but it has.
However, because it’s all tied into Apple Music, you can use that app to manage your playlists — including classical playlists — and download them for offline playback that way, at least according to reports. I’ve not tested that myself.
Unlike Apple Music, there’s also no “radio” style function for automated listening if that’s your preference.
Apple Music Classical also isn’t available in China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan or Türkiye. I’ve no idea what happens if you take your Australian Apple Music Classical subscription there with offline downloads on your iPhone, though. Anyone want to hop on a plane and find out?
I’m not particularly a classical music fan, though I have many friends who are much more baroque fans than they are rock fans, if you know what I mean. It’s a nice inclusion, if a little oddly integrated into the way that Apple Music itself works.
While I get the delay on having Android versions of the App up and running, it feels weird to me that there’s no immediate macOS or iPadOS support, though I suppose Apple would have the exact metrics of how much Apple Music listening is started on those platforms.