Why Doesn’t Apple Music Let Users Search for Composers?

I know, classical music is a small share of the overall music market. But it’s still an important part of the overall music landscape, and if there are currently 36 million Apple Music subscribers, that means there are at least a couple of million people who listen to classical music.

Yet you cannot search for composers.

Composer search

You see some composers listed as “artists,” you see their names in the titles of albums (for a number of years, many if not most classical albums that feature music from a single composer have that composer’s name at the beginning of the title), you may see playlists with a composer’s music, you even see “songs,” but you cannot see all the music by a composer.

Granted, this could return a lot of results. Maybe not for Olivier Messiaen, as in the example above, but for a composer like Beethoven, Bach, or Brahms, there would be thousands of albums.

Yet if I search for Beethoven, and look at the album results – which only features albums that contain his name in the title – only 21 albums are shown; including With the Beatles, because it contains their cover of Roll Over Beethoven.

This lack of searchability borders on contempt. Apple Music wants you to be able to “discover” music, but they don’t give you the tools to search for anything. You can only really discover music in the For You section, or in playlists. And it’s not just for classical music; I’d like to have better search for jazz as well, looking for specific musicians.

Apple has the metadata; they just don’t let customers access it. Because they don’t care very much about music that isn’t pop and hip-hop. People at Apple have told me that there are employees who listen to classical music who work in and around iTunes and Apple Music, and this has lead to some improvements in the way classical music can be organized in an iTunes library, and to the way some composer names are displayed in the iTunes Store and in Apple Music. It wouldn’t be hard to introduce this type of search; in fact, they used to have a “Power Search,” that had fields like Composer, Director (for movies), Author (for books), and more. But they just don’t care.

9 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t Apple Music Let Users Search for Composers?

  1. Go to Google advanced search, and search for Composer in the phrase field, and put itunes.apple.com in the ‘at site’ field.



    I alwasy do the same with apps. Apple has never been too swift at building search functions. Even in the support forums.

    A search for “Eric Clapton” in itunes.apple.com has given me 74,000 results. Put a keyword “Journeyman” into the ‘word’ field and you get all the Journeyman album tunes.

  2. Fred: Thank you! Thank You! Thank You!

    I got so tired of searching for “Mozart” in AM and getting “Mozart To Make your Baby Smarter”, “Mozart For Elevator Rides” etc, and nothing of substance. Now I just bookmark the page for all of Mozart (and other composers) and I’m a couple of clicks away from AM’s entire catalog of composers I like.

    My nomination for tip of the year.

  3. One of several reasons I’m still sticking with BUYING PHYSICAL CDS. (And digitizing some of my LPs, of performances that have not been, and are unlikely to be, issued in any other format.)

  4. Totally agree that Apple, apparently, does not understand even the basic conventions pertaining to classical music collection cataloguing.
    Sadly, Apple, has always, seemingly, treated classical music, composers and classical music aficionados in the manner of a complete philistine.

    This is the reason that serious classical music aficionados would never consider using such a lowbrow product as Apple Music. And, poor downmarket attitude and practice, such as this, must be costing Apple millions in potential sales.

  5. IIRC correctly Apple uses Gracenote, a Nielsen Company, as the source of information for such things. One sec… indeed they do as does Amazon and a host of media companies. So the Classical music weakness you see, and one local such music buff told me about it several years ago, reflects that Apple hasn’t developed an in-house resource for this knowledge base.

    Like Siri (and I bought a Google Home this week), there are areas like this that Apple simply hadn’t paid sufficient attention to.

    • Yes they use Gracenote, but they don’t need to develop anything in house – if the metadata is there, it is searchable. As I say in the article, the Power Search feature used to let you search for composers.

  6. There is a very similar problem in the area of dance/club music. In dance music, people often want to search or organise their music by the record label it was released on. Artist names are often throw-away one-offs, whereas some labels have almost become sub-genres in their own right (this aspect of labels actually goes back many decades, it’s just even more pronounced in modern dance music). And there’s also the question of remixers, producers, key mixing (not just bpm), and so on. Apple Music has no clue about this stuff.

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