Episode: Can Apple Music Find Harmony with Classical Music Fans?

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Can Apple Music Find Harmony with Classical Music Fans?

"The whole concept of streaming doesn't fit with the way people listen to classical music," says Kirk McElhearn, a technology writer and senior contributor to Macworld, in this week's episode of Conducting Business.

The launch of the online streaming service Apple Music has raised hopes and reinforced some of the persistent complaints about Apple when it comes to delivering symphonies, concertos and operas to listeners' computers and mobile devices.

In test runs, McElhearn found that Apple Music repeats a problem familiar to the tech company's iTunes store: it serves up individual movements from pieces rather than grouping them together in sequence. So a listener's encounter with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony might only involve the third movement, not the whole work in sequence.

Apple is touting its streaming service, which launched on June 30 in 100 countries, for not only its depth – with more than 30 million songs – but its hand-picked recommendations. Some of its "curated" playlists are chosen by the company's editors – à la the old record store clerk. There is also a section called "for you," based on music you've previously purchased or rated. McElhearn complains that when he first opened this section he was given a playlist called "Classical Music for Elevators."

Classical Music...for Elevators (Screenshot/mcelhearn.com)

Craig Havighurst, a writer and broadcaster from Nashville who co-hosts the weekly show Music City Roots, also tested Apple Music and tells us that the service lacks sufficient contextual information about recordings, such as liner notes (a flaw he admits is partly attributable to record companies). Searching for artists also didn't go easily. "Fans of classical music want to be able to see who a soloist is or who a conductor is and the 'artist' catchall doesn't explain that," he said.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment for this segment. But while streaming companies – including Spotify, Pandora and Google Play – inevitably make music of all kinds more accessible, Havighurst argues that "art" genres may always be neglected: "If classical and jazz listeners are 4 to 5 percent of the [total] market, they are the ones who get underserved."

Listen to the full segment above and tell us below: Have you tried Apple Music? What did you like or didn't like about it?

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