What is Primephonic? The classical music streaming service explained
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(Pocket-lint) – Primephonic is a now-defunct music streaming service that offered classical music exclusively. It was acquired by Apple, and taken offline in the summer of 2021.
A message on Primephonic’s website states that “The Primephonic service has been taken offline. We are working on an amazing new classical music experience from Apple for next year.”
As of this writing, this classical music service from Apple has yet to materialize, although there’s evidence it’s in the works.
If you are interested in the services that Primephonic offered, you can find them below:
What did Primephonic offer?
Primephonic was a complete classical music streaming app. The best feature of Primephonic was its search as it allowed users to search classical music by period, genre, style or personal like who conducted the performance. Essentially, users could sift through vast amounts of classical music by looking at other factors (up to eight variables) rather than just searching by artist, song, or album available on other streaming apps.
Founded in 2017, the service had more than three and a half million tracks from 170,000 artists across 230,000 albums and 2,400 labels. A manual curation team was working to make sure everything was categorized correctly. Primephonic claims to have the largest classical music database in the world, with 230,000 albums.
“Classical music is complicated… it’s associated with a lot of data,” says Guy Jones, head of selection. A single piece can have hundreds of different recordings, as Pocket-lint demonstrated by showing a Beethoven piano concerto with 571 different recordings available. The app recommends the best version, which is manually selected for the top 500 works.
The playlists have also been designed with the classical music listener in mind. Rather than offering a set of “relaxing classic” tunes like you might find on another platform, Primephonic offers more granular playlists for beginners like Choral Essentials or Renaissance Essentials to help users get started. And, of course, there were many novelties.
Jones said that classical music is so diverse “but it’s interesting that classical is this thing that people think they have to understand before they can appreciate it. There’s an old idea that it’s elitist”. However, Jones argued that he need not be elitist and that there are many entry points.
“There’s an idea of classical music as being peaceful and relaxing,” Jones said. “A lot of it can be pulsating, hopeless, hyperactive or whatever.”
What subscriptions and applications did it offer?
A full subscription cost £9.99 (Premium) or £14.99 (Platinum) per month. There was a 14 day free trial. The difference between the two tiers is essentially the streaming quality – either 320kbps MP3 or 24-bit lossless FLAC. Users could save by paying either £99.99 or £149.99 upfront for a year.
Primephonic CEO Thomas Steffans told us the split between the two subscriptions was around 45/55, with most users opting for the better audio quality.
There are iOS and Android apps, as well as a web app for Mac and PC. As expected, offline listening is supported by mobile apps. It was also fully integrated with Sonos.
It couldn’t be used with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices at the time, but naturally users could connect to those and other devices with Bluetooth, Chromecast, and AirPlay.
Primephonic had introduced booklets, which were PDFs of CD overlays that users did not experience with streaming. Due to the detailed information they contained, including them added something to the experience.
Primephonic has collaborated with major labels such as Sony, Universal and Harmonia Mundi, as well as scores of smaller labels, on the booklets and have already provided tens of thousands of them to listeners. Primephonic said it plans to supply as many albums as possible.
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“CD booklets are very important for classical music lovers,” Steffens said. “Our subscribers are passionate about the genre and want to absorb as much information detailing composers, instrumentalists and conductors as possible.”
Written by Dan Grabham. Edited by Luke Baker.