Sep 8·edited Sep 8

Great article. One caveat:

“Theory #2: Apple despises music and musicians.”

This flatters both a) musicians (and by extension writers, other artists, etc.) and b) everyone who cares about the arts, any art.

Apple, Amazon and their fellow tech lords don’t despise us. They’re utterly indifferent. They don’t care. What’s more, it rarely, if ever, occurs to them that that that might even be an option.

They don’t despise people who can do things they can’t, appreciate things they don’t or who have simply made life choices they didn’t. That would entail some level of respect and resentment.

Nor is there likely much guilt about unfairly profiting off other’s work that leads to anger (it’s not a case of ‘we hate those we exploit.’) They evidently think entirely in terms of product, processes (of distribution, consumption, monetizing, etc), consumers and long term strategies.

Not only are the actual individuals who create & cultivate art beneath contempt (being despised), they’re usually beneath even perfunctory notice.

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I’m in LA where Taylor Swift just did six sold out stadium shows. The city had a kinetic circus feeling that was palpable. There’s a used bookstore with an incredible music section I frequent regularly and swear that section was bristling with female teenagers that week looking for books on songwriting and I talked to a few of them. The Eras show had had a radical impact on them. That’s the aspect of Swift that self-appointed male music gatekeepers don’t understand about her. Music isn’t just notes on a page or tritone substitutions. For a generation that seems to me rejecting the failed models that preceded them or are searching for models to live their lives differently, musicians often offer that model. I know some prominent female musicians who have told me one of the hardest parts is this sudden responsibility to young female fans who look to them as guides of how to be in the world. We could all learn something there

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I think the comments here and in the article are unnecessarily vitriolic towards Apple, who albeit is a trillion dollar corporation, but has plainly proven over decades that their business model is based on delivering genuine value to customers, a handful of caveats and misdirections withstanding.

Theory #1 is the obvious motive for Apple and the least riskiest approach. Apple does not take overt risks and are known to be slow to move. I do not see them making any deliberate pursuits towards AI-generated music until that market has been well proven out. Today, AI music still amounts to novelty meme content that shows up on your feed occasionally.

They have been cornering the classical music market since they bought Primephonic, the niche classical music streaming service, in August 2021. Clearly they are just trying to buy into the classical music industry by buying a reputable classical music label. It doesn't need to be fancy or even profitable - just well run, with hard-earned experience among its staff and ownership. Whats valuable to Apple here is the access to knowledge and experience of working within the classical music industry, and being exposed to every step between artist to listener.

What is likely here is that Apple is making a bet towards niche streaming services for music (and probably other forms of content) as the way to profitability. One giant music app with all artists and all tracks is starting to seem like a nebulous and herculean approach that never quite satisfies the user. However - a niche streaming app dedicated to classical music? That would invite die-hard classical fans and casual ethusiasts alike and is much more likely to retain users over time. And to build a successful niche app that satisfies the die-hard classical music listener, you need deep knowledge and expertise. That's why they bought BIS.

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Yooo, it’s the Minnesota Orchestra not the “Minnesota Symphony.” (It hasn’t been called a Symphony since its days as the Minneapolis Symphony, decades ago). Also, Osmo Vanska is an incredibly sensitive conductor; his recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra of his countryman Sibelius’s symphonies are transcendent. (However, I haven’t heard his Beethoven.)

Just had to set the record straight on my hometown orchestra. I probably feel as strongly about the Minnesota Orchestra as some people feel about the Twins or the Vikings.

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Apple rarely makes public comments about acquisitions. They buy a small company every 3-4 weeks on average, generally only employing a few people, primarily for their staff, who become employees at Apple.

It’s a pretty big jump from a minor acquisition to “Apple is going to destroy music”.

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It's like Safeway offering a store brand, right next to the national brands and with similar packaging.

In case anyone misses the point, it also says "Compare to <national brand> " right on it.

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I think you’re bloody right. But also, when you mentioned “pervasive blandness and stagnation” on the culture, Taylor Swift popped unbidden in my brain. Besides her sophomoric lyrics and amateur vocals (which have acted like a narcotic on lazy listeners), what could be more stagnant than re-recording all your old stuff just to gain revenue? A true artist - especially a wealthy one - would say, “It sucks that my masters were sold, but just wait until you see what I do next - I’ve moved on from that old work!” But I’ll read your open letter with an open mind.

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Once again, I think that fact that Apple (and Spotify) can run these admittedly shifty scams is due to the total lack of musical and cultural education of the LISTENERS, their customers. What person who actually knows anything about music - any music but especially classical music - goes on a streaming service and just listens to whatever the service recommends? Or just clicks on a “mood” or curated playlist consisting of a bunch of disparate movements from various composers from random periods and styles?

If young people were provided a better education concerning music, including classical music (sadly out of favor now in Western countries purely because of the color/ethnicity/geographic origin of its exemplars) they would be well equipped to craft search queries to find the best recordings by the very best artists.

I subscribe to Apple Music and I use their “Classical” app daily. I have no problem finding fantastic recordings there, more easily than any other time in my life (remember mail order catalogs or rummaging through the shelves of LPs at the public library or used record stores or Goodwill?). I easily find what I want because when I went to public school growing up from the mid-sixties through the ‘70s, there were still programs in my schools that taught band, jazz ensemble, choir, music appreciation and history. And my local public television and radio stations featured classical music and educational programs frequently - one of our local radio stations played classical music 24/7/365, and included educational programming.

When I search for music on Apple’s “Classical” app, I’m not looking for “music for study” or just hitting the “Play” button on whatever stuff they happen to have on their welcome page, I’m looking for “Haydn String Quartet Op. 33 No. 5” or “Beethoven Piano Sonatas Schiff” or “Bach Cantatas Harmonia Mundi” - and I find what I want, including recordings, artists and pieces I didn’t know about before.

It’s not Apple or Spotify’s job to educate music listeners, that’s the role of our educational and cultural institutions, publicly funded media, AND parents, adults, mentors and friends.

If Apple recommends a BIS release, just scroll down or write a more specific search - it’s not that complicated.

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Apple doesn't like or hate music and musicians. Apple likes money.

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I know this is off topic - Verve Records logo is being used (I think) on the new dockers shirt. (sorry for the off topic).


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So streaming services are turning into Muzak.


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Classical music should remain free and accessible to all. Here is a playlist I listen to while writing: https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/how-to-be-a-classic

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The purchase price is so small by Apple standards that there is the distinct possibility that there is no strategy (or meaning) behind the purchase at all. I used to do work for a corporate R&D center that existed as a favor to an aging key exec. When he retired, they shut it down.

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The last two words say it all and the more I read, the more I get why.... Taylor Swift.

You have to love her solution to her ex manager & publishing fiasco.

Have you seen her NPR Tiny Desk Concert? She is so engaging and SO good!

And the demographics of her followers? They will be with her a long, long time to come.

She may be the solution to a lot of the ills of the music business.

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I just assumed they wanted to legally own a bunch of classical recordings for AI training purposes.

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Not surprising you mention Queen Tay at the end. Swiftie Supporter here!

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