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:


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.