Nothing about the Primephonic sale is open, fair or classical friendly

Nothing about the Primephonic sale is open, fair or classical friendly


norman lebrecht

August 31, 2021

The classical streaming service Primephonic will be taken down by its new owners, Apple Inc., a week from today.

People who bought a Primephonic subscription will be given six months free access to Apple, which is not what they wanted. Many tell us they feel let down by the supposedly classical-friendly service.

Its Dutch co-founder Thomas Steffens and major shareholder Gordon Getty have offered neither regret nor reassurance.

Nobody is saying how much money changed hands, or what Steffens and Getty gained personally from the Apple deal.

Apple Music promises to launch a dedicated classical music app next year based on Primephonic’s classical user interface and ‘with more added features’. Let’s see. Apple has never previously bothered with classical music and many of its prior purchases have just vanished into the corportation’s bottomless maw.

Nothing about this deal is transparent, fair or consumer friendly. Announced over a holday weekend, it was timed to escape scrutiny. In the circumstances, we can have little confidence in the future of classical music on Apple.

There remains one other classical streaming service, Idagio. It should do well in the months and years ahead.



  • Paul Sekhri says:

    Not really a fair assessment. There is a ton of wonderful classical music on Apple Music. And I believe the word you were looking for is “corporation”, not “corportation”. Try turning on Apple spellcheck…

    • larryb says:

      Yes but you cant find it because their curation is just terrible. And Apple spellcheck does indeed work well, for those who use small words.

  • Robert DeChamp says:

    Who cares? Who really streams classical music? Millennials? Nonsense. I myself have over 500k tracks in my digital library. When I want a new record I buy it and add it to the digital library. I will never not have access to it.
    Only idiots would depend on someone’s whim and their business model and/or internet connection to listen to music.

    • Orchestralmusician says:

      Those of us preparing music for work not leisure often depend on streaming services. I don’t necessarily want to pay to own every piece that I have reason to play professionally.

    • Peter Tompkins says:

      I do exactly the same though I absolutely loved Primephonic. My NAIM HDX will be back in business playing my 3000 CDs from my own library next week! Of course I can enjoy them and I would never listen to 100000 or whatever recordings on Primephonic.

      • Henry williams says:

        I only buy cds because the sound on my
        Naim cd player is excellent. And the artist
        And retailer can earn a living.

    • Tamino says:

      well, but 80% of the customers or more are in average “idiots”. Apple’s success as a company largely depended on it. So keep doing what you are doing, but don’t expect the world to change for the better.

    • Mystic Chord says:

      LOL, only an idiot would write with such banal self-conviction. Nonsense? I’ll just continue to enjoy my Spotify Premium subscription because guess what, DeChump, it works for me.

      • Mattias says:

        Well, I agree about the self-conviction. But I tried to listen to Andras Schiffs’ Schubert recordings at Spotify Premium’s “very high” (highest offered) quality and it was totally useless. I miss Primephonic so much, because it was a great way to discover music for a newbie like me.

        • robbes says:

          Yes. There are many more parameters when dialing up a classical music selection that Spotify mobile app is oblivious to. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7. Berlin Phil? Conducted by? Von Karajan? From which year? He’s recorded it several times over the decades with Deutchegramafone. I want the 1963 recording. Good luck conveying all that in Spotify search.

  • Plush says:

    Quobus is also a very credible classical streaming service. They offer excellent fidelity. Having Apple backing classical is a good sign. No one else is doing it.

  • Jonathan Dorfman says:

    Agree. The announcement created more questions than answers.

  • Shimon Crown says:

    The fact that Apple is in such a hurry to close down the existing service shows contempt for classical music lovers. I wonder what the real motive is behind this purchase.

  • David Rowe says:

    I would indeed adopt a “let’s see” approach here. Apple must have some reason for this acquisition, and it surely isn’t because other major platforms have cracked classical streaming, which does indeed pose unique challenges. Perhaps Apple has a genuine interest to serve the classical niche; if true, it may be a major net positive for the music’s accessibility.

    • Peter Tompkins says:

      Apple might well have bought the business for a tiny price for its customer list. If that is the case that would explain the immediate closure. I don’t feel very hopeful right now.

  • Viola says:

    Idagio, Primephonic and Apple Music … none of them pay Equitable Remuneration to the musicians when their recordings are streamed.

  • Bill says:

    “Announced over a holday weekend”

    Which holiday weekend is that? The press releases are dated August 30, which is not a holiday here in the country of the acquirer or the major shareholder.

  • Freewheeler says:

    Perhaps one, day, in a more enlightened future, it will possible to somehow download all the classical music you want for free.

    • Tamino says:

      Why should that be? What would be enlightened about it? Do you think musicians do not need to train 20-30 years before they can be called professionals, and do not need to live relatively comfortably and worry free?
      How do you suggest musicians make a living?
      You are asking for musicians becoming slaves. What would be enlightened about that?
      (or was your comment actually ironic?)

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Doesn’t mean a thing to me. I find pretty much everything I want to hear on Spotify and Youtube. I also buy a few ‘pirate’ CD’s from live concerts, not offered anywhere else.

  • Bob Hunter says:

    As a subscriber to Primephonic for the last two years, I find this announcement very disappointing. I have no experience of Apple music, but I have of both Spotify and Amazon, and if Apple handle Classical music the same way as those two, I don’t really hold out much hope.
    I will however be taking advantage of my six free months to find out!

  • Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

    I switched from Primephonic to Quobuz yesterday. The latter actually has a better Hi-Res catalog, especially for Warner.

  • Paul Homchick says:

    I am a Primephonic subscriber. I joined because classical music is what I primarily listen to, and with none of the other streaming services is it really possible find specific recordings of classical music. Even Primephonic has its shortcomings. For instance you can’t search for all Beethoven symphonies recorded by a specific conductor, as I recently attempted to do. Perhaps Apple will finally solve this problem. After all, they created it!

  • Boris says:

    While obviously not having the very best (“audiophile”) sound quality, I find it strange how Naxos Music Library (which actually has the best search systems AND CD booklets) is always omitted from these discussions. Primephonic, while having premium sound options, is/was not very well curated, unfortunately.

  • Alan Ford says:

    Spot on. Have been a Primephonic subscriber for over two years, and loved it: really catered for classical music lovers, and greatly expanded my range and knowledge through its playlists and suggestions.
    But clearly Apple has no interest in maintaining the loyalty of its Primephonic listeners. Cut off with a weeks notice with just a vague promise of a replacement in the distant future.
    Have now switched to Idagio – just hope it survives.

  • Fred Plotkin says:

    Come on over to Idagio, which does have an equitable compensation plan for musicians. And each Friday you can hear me converse with musicians and other creative people on Fred Plotkin on Fridays (2 pm in New York, 7 pm in London, 8 pm in Western Europe)