Discovering recordings

David P. Anderson
16 October 2023

There are LOTS of apps that stream recordings of classical music. They differ in the nature and source of the recordings and the economic model. They all offer text search on composer and title. Some offer additional search and discovery features, as described below.


Some apps stream commercially licensed recordings (i.e. from record companies). They offer free access with ads, or no-ad access for a $10-15 monthly subscription.

  • Idagio: classical focus, with an emphasis on 'relaxing' background music. Free with ads; $10/month otherwise. Recordings from major record labels like DG. You can 'like' tracks, artists etc.; this adds them your 'collections'. No social features. No metadata. There's a 'Discover New Music' link, but it's not personalized; the word 'curated' appears everywhere. Curated 'playlists' for various moods and occasions. For example, they have 'top 20' lists of recordings in various categories. In the list of piano pieces, the top 3 are 'Fur Elise', 'Rondo alla Turca', and 'The Entertainer'.
  • Spotify, Pandora etc. These have a type of discovery tool where you list a few tracks, and it plays an infinite stream of tracks that are related by (I assume) social linkage or attribute linkage. They may use some form of collaborative filtering; it's not revealed.


Apps that essentially act as record companies: they vet performers, then sell their recordings and pay the performers. Some of them host content from record labels.

  • Tidal: $11-$20/month. Multi-genre, mostly popular. Classical searches yield mostly MIDI/synth versions. 100M songs (?) and 650K videos. I'm not sure what their discovery tools are. They have 'expert-curated playlists', track-level "add to collection" and "block", artist "follow", and the ability to 'track and share your listening habits'.
  • Soundcloud. Mostly popular, some classical. Discovery tools (mostly social linkage): 'related tracks' (not sure of the criteria; seems to be new unrelated stuff); 'In playlists': the playlists this recording is in; 'Likes': see who liked this recording; 'Reposts': not sure what this is; 'Following': you can follow other users; 'comments' (on tracks). No classical metadata.
  • Bandcamp. Some classical, no metadata.
  • prestomusic. Classical, jazz.


Apps where anyone can upload recordings.


Sites that have commercial music and also allow arbitrary user uploads.

  • Myspace. Seems to be defunct.
  • YouTube has made it possible to hear obscure music, and lots of renditions of less obscure music, including historical performances, performances by class B/C/D musicians, recordings with video, and recordings with superimposed scores.

    In addition to text search, YouTube provides lists of recommended videos. I'm not sure what the algorithm is, but this is not a bad discovery tool. If you listen to music by a particular obscure composer, you'll get recommendations for related obscure composers.

  • IMSLP has streamable MP3s for many compositions. These are mostly supplied by record companies, but users can upload them also. This provides some attribute search capabilities, albeit with a clumsy interface.

Most of these apps don't have good metadata or attribute-based search. Few of them, for example, let you click on a track and see all recordings of that work.

As mentioned, some of them (Spotify, YouTube) make recommendations based on what you've listened to. These mechanisms are incomplete. Typically, they steer you towards music that's already achieved some level of success - it's been commercially published, or commercially recorded, or lots of people have listened to it on the app. They steer you toward the middle of the taste distribution, not the edges.