It’s been 16 months since Apple purchased Prime phonic, a three-year-old classical music streaming service. Meanwhile, Apple Music has only a few days to meet its goal of launching a standalone Apple Classical app to replace the defunct Prime phonic app.
Why did Apple buy Prime phonic and promise a separate app when Apple Music already has a massive classical catalogue? This article by my colleague Ben Lovejoy, written two years before Apple purchased Prime phonic, explains the problem that Apple wants to solve for classical music.
Apple emphasised the service’s “outstanding listening experience with search and browse functionality optimised for classical, premium-quality audio, handpicked expert recommendations, and extensive contextual details on repertoire and recordings” when it announced the Prime phonic purchase.
All of this sounds very Apple Music-y, so why not bring the Prime phonic experience to the app that Apple Music subscribers already use?
The short answer is that classical music metadata differs greatly from that of modern pop music. Aside from the extensive catalogue, Prime phonic was designed with the goal of making classical music searchable and discoverable in the age of streaming music.
Prime phonic also had a unique method of compensating artists for plays. Streaming music services pay artists based on track plays, which does not work for classical music.
The people behind Prime phonic recognised the problem and switched to a pay-for-second payout structure rather than pay-for-play.
We don’t know if Apple is or will be honouring this payout structure. That is most likely something Steffens is concentrating on in his new position. However, we do know what has been made public about the standalone classical music app.