Startup of the Week: Primephonic

As part of our series on exploring up and coming Startups based in  the Netherlands we talked to Primephonic in Amsterdam. They are our ‘Startup of the Week’.

Primephonic is a Dutch-American start-up founded by a team of classical music lovers with the ambition to create a better future for classical music by finally developing a streaming service that gets classical right. The streaming service for classical music started in Amsterdam in 2017. They aim to solve Classical Music’s Digital Challenge.

The world is undergoing a digital revolution, but classical music so far has missed it: as a result the genre has faced declining popularity over the last decades. Primephonic refuses to accept that this negative trend is inevitable. They believe that if classical music gets digital right, a reinvention of the classical music experience can reignite a worldwide passion for the genre.

Tell us a little about your product
We developed a music streaming platform that addresses the unmet needs of classical music lovers worldwide. On our platform classical music lovers can finally stream and download nearly all classical music that has ever been recorded in CD-quality, an ever-expanding catalogue of over a million recorded tracks; they can seamlessly find back-ground information on the works, composers and artists they listen to; they get works recommended daily that they do not know yet, but will love. Classical music lovers can also instantly compare multiple recordings of their favourite works and they can listen to nearly all labels’ monthly new releases. They can also connect globally with likeminded classical music lovers and share their passion for the genre.

Who are they?
With a team of 20 classical music lovers from 13 countries in our offices in Amsterdam and NYC we enable classical music lovers to listen more often to more diverse classical music in a more enriching way. At the same time our service creates more funds for artists and artistic development of the genre. Join us to create a better future for classical music, together!

The history of the Market
Not that long ago three classical music lovers from three different countries (Austria, Netherlands and Singapore) were discussing the future of classical music over a glass of wine. They were concerned. The world was undergoing a digital revolution, creating superior new propositions for customers in many sectors. Including music. Streaming services emerged replacing illegal downloads with a new way of consuming music in a more customer friendly way, whilst at the same time generating more income for artists. After more than a decade of declining revenue these streaming services turned the tide: since 2015 the worldwide music sector is growing again. Resulting in more funding for talent and genre development and more income for often underpaid artists. Unfortunately, these three classical music lovers realized, the tide was not yet turning for classical.

“Classical music is strongly underrepresented on streaming services, much below its fair share.”

Classical music had a global market share in the music market around 5% in downloads, radio and CD sales. But in streaming, its share was (and is) only 1%. At the same time industry experts projected that by 2030 70% of global music revenue and consumption would be in streaming. The three concluded that classical music was facing an existential challenge: a genre that is enormously underrepresented in the dominant channel of the future does not have a bright future, to put it mildly. Declining income will reduce funding for talent and genre development, dramatically.

They did not wonder for long why classical is so underrepresented in streaming. As classical music lovers they all had the same disappointing (often even frustrating) experiences when streaming classical on major streaming services. In particular they shared frustrations on poor search results, recommendations that usually did not make a lot of sense, no availability of lossless audio quality, no interesting background information to enrich their classical experience, cumbersome functionality to listen to different recordings of the same work, and more.

They decided to investigate the matter. Soon they found out that generic streaming services have designed their metadata and search and recommendations algorithms based on pop music’s structure: name of artist, name of album and name of song, and that’s it. But classical music’s structure has typically 8 parameters: Mozart’s (1) Seventeenth (2) Piano (3) Concerto (4), the ‘andante’ movement (5), performed by Lang Lang (6) and the Wiener Philharmoniker (7), conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (8). In other words, to solve the streaming pain points for classical listeners, fundamentally different metadata and algorithms are needed.

One year later, the three classical music lovers discussed the future of classical music again over another glass of wine. The wine had improved in the meantime, but classical music streaming had not. Not even a bit. Then the three bit the bullet: if current streaming services will not bring classical music into the digital age, we will do it ourselves. Soon they onboarded investors in the US and the Netherlands to fund the journey and Primephonic was born. The three founders gathered a team of classical music lovers to develop the world’s best classical streaming service. A first version of the service was soft-launched at small scale in June 2017. Ever since the team has been dedicating time to perfecting the service. Since August 2018 our new service is available to all US, UK and Netherlands based classical music listeners. A global roll out will start in 2019 to reinvent the classical music experience and reignite a passion for the genre, globally. To bring classical music into the digital era, finally.

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