Apple Music Classical

Last week Apple released Apple Music Classical, a variant of their Apple Music streaming service (and which operates off of the same subscription) but that only contains classical music. While I'm no expert by any stretch, I'm actually a bit of a classical music fan. It's something I turn to frequently when I want music without any lyrics (e.g. when I'm reading or trying to focus on something for work.) My car's stereo is even always tuned to the local classical music station, though I typically only listen to it for a few moments until Bluetooth connects. Despite liking classical music, though, I couldn't imagine why this would be a standalone app. Apple Music already has a great selection of classical and pretty terrific playlists... wouldn't this just basically be the same thing as what I see in the Classical category?

A friend of mine claimed to have some insight into the reasoning, though I don't know if it's true or not. He told me that he heard on a podcast (I don't recall which one, if he even mentioned it) that people who are really into Classical music don't want to bother with seeing anything else. On one hand, I think it seems like a bit of a stretch since, unless there's some sort of niche classical streaming service out there, everyone is already used to using Apple Music, Spotify, Prime Music, etc. On the other hand, I know I got really irritated when services (I'm looking at you, Spotify) started including podcasts, recommending podcasts, and generally bugging me to listen to garbage that I was absolutely never going to listen to, so I can kind of understand.

Regardless, I had set the app to auto-download so I could check it out whenever it became available. I started poking around as soon as I got the notification that it was ready, and my immediate reaction was that this was, quite clearly, something for the true classical die-hards. I'm more of a “show me a bunch of playlists and I'll pick from the one that I think looks the best for the current situation” person when it comes to classical music, and Apple Music Classical is absolutely not the app for that. In fact, the number of Apple-curated playlists that are surfaced seems to actually be smaller than what I see in full-fledged Apple Music; several of the playlists I commonly come back to weren't even shown in the Classical app (which probably says something about my taste in classical music.) Those playlists were at least still available within the app since they showed up as things I had recently played, however.

Rather than focus on what Apple curates, the app seems to focus more on making it easy for users to find what they want. It's simple to quickly surface music by both composer and performer. Again, I'm not on the level where that's something I'm looking for, but I can certainly understand how nice it would be if that's your jam.

What really threw me for a loop, though, is that even shuffling didn't appear to be an option. When listening to a new album for the first time, across any genre, I always listen to it in order. After that, however, I'm a prodigious user of the shuffle function. Albums, playlists, etc. all get shuffled. Apple Music Classical doesn't seem to be cool with that. Instead of the two buttons one would normally see in Apple Music for “Play” or “Shuffle”, Apple Music Classical only shows “Play.”

A playlist in Apple Music Classical just showing a play button without any shuffle option

Even using the normal UI elements to give the option for shuffling will only include the icon for looping.

Apple Music Classical controls showing loop as the only option

This one was a bit of a dealbreaker for me since I most commonly come back to a handful of playlists (which Apple does a good job of updating on the regular) and shuffling through them so I'm not always hearing the same handful of songs at the start. The lack shuffle means I'm just going to keep listening to the same playlists through the regular Apple Music app instead.

On the whole, I don't think I would say that Apple Music Classical is bad, per se, but I just still fail to see the point of it. If you're already paying for full access to Apple Music, why not just use that? I'd think it would be nice to have Apple recommend songs and create weekly playlists for you, which should still be based around classical if that's all someone listens to. (Note: I'm 100% not saying that I'm “right”; this was just my personal impression. If a classical guru out there happens to stumble across this post and loves the Classical app over Apple Music, I'd be extremely curious to hear the reasoning!)