Here’s What’s Wrong with Classical Music on Streaming Services (Part Whatever)

Classical music is hard to get right on streaming services. From dodgy metadata to inconsistent work names, it’s a real slog to stream classical music (if you want more than just the Bolero or Satie’s Gymnopedies).

unCLASSIFIED, a subsidiary of the Naxos Music Group, a large independent classical record label and distributor, creates playlists. They’ve been doing this for Spotify for a while, and they are now on Apple Music. Here’s the kind of playlists they offer:

Unclassified

As the description says, whether you “need a soundtrack for studying…” As if there aren’t any other reasons to listen to classical music. Oh, wait, there are: there is “Serenity Now,” because classical music is “serene.” Or classical music for running, because, I don’t know, you run better with Mozart? And Supper Club, so you can seduce your date with some subtle Bach playing in the bachground.

There’s also brain fuel, a “TranceClassical” playlist by some single-named, unknown person, and “Sounds Without Boundaries,” which is a mash-up of contemporary music with traditional instruments (lots of Icelandic composers, movie soundtracks, and even a track from Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which no one in the world wants to listen to voluntarily. I know; I listened to the entire album once.)

This is the dumbing down of classical music. Taken this way, classical music is just muzak. It’s designed for a mood or task, like that won’t-ever-go-away Classical Music for Elevators playlist I keep seeing in Apple Music’s For You recommendations.

Let’s just accept that classical music will never work on streaming services unless it is treated the way a good classical radio station would. I don’t think playlists need to contain, say, entire operas or full Mahler symphonies, but dumbing it down like this in an attempt to make classical music “cool” just alienates those people who do like classical music.

22 thoughts on “Here’s What’s Wrong with Classical Music on Streaming Services (Part Whatever)

  1. Should we listen to classical music based on a single work, not any individual songs? I have no idea how to understand classical music without completing listening to entire work.

    • I’d say there are cases where individual pieces can work, such as a collection of opera arias, or lieder. But most classical music requires listening to an entire work because that’s the way it’s written.

  2. Should we listen to classical music based on a single work, not any individual songs? I have no idea how to understand classical music without completing listening to entire work.

    • I’d say there are cases where individual pieces can work, such as a collection of opera arias, or lieder. But most classical music requires listening to an entire work because that’s the way it’s written.

  3. I suppose if you know an entire concerto from beggining to end then taking a single movement is OK. First movement of any classical concerto is strict sonata form and thus stands up in its own right.

  4. I suppose if you know an entire concerto from beggining to end then taking a single movement is OK. First movement of any classical concerto is strict sonata form and thus stands up in its own right.

  5. There are TONS of great classical music recodings on Spotify if you look. The record companies deliberately make playlists and collections with very bad sound, so you THINK you have to get the real thing elsewhere. That is a big swindle.

    • I assume you actually read my article, where I point out the problems with bad metadata and inconsistent work names. Sure, the music is there, but it’s not easy to find, and neither Spotify nor Apple Music have multi-criteria search.

  6. There are TONS of great classical music recodings on Spotify if you look. The record companies deliberately make playlists and collections with very bad sound, so you THINK you have to get the real thing elsewhere. That is a big swindle.

    • I assume you actually read my article, where I point out the problems with bad metadata and inconsistent work names. Sure, the music is there, but it’s not easy to find, and neither Spotify nor Apple Music have multi-criteria search.

  7. “New Releases in Classical Music” – now that’s a stream! Reminds me of the 3 Stooges store sign “Ye Olde Furniture Shoppe, Antiques Made While U-Waite.”

  8. “New Releases in Classical Music” – now that’s a stream! Reminds me of the 3 Stooges store sign “Ye Olde Furniture Shoppe, Antiques Made While U-Waite.”

  9. FYI, the last name of the person who created the TranceClassical playlist is on the cover art of that playlist – Maya Beiser.

  10. FYI, the last name of the person who created the TranceClassical playlist is on the cover art of that playlist – Maya Beiser.

    • Yes, I tried it a few years ago. There were too many annoying issues, the main one being that you can search for and find music, but only then find it’s not streamable.

    • Yes, I tried it a few years ago. There were too many annoying issues, the main one being that you can search for and find music, but only then find it’s not streamable.

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