Today Amazon launched “Amazon Music Unlimited,” a streaming service with enticing bargains and advanced voice command options that will directly compete with the likes of Apple Music and Spotify.
It’s no surprise that Amazon wants in on the lucrative streaming market, which may not yet be as profitable for artists as the golden years of CDs or vinyl, but has been great for the industry itself—it led to an 8.1 percent rise in revenue in the first half of 2016, according to the RIAA. Streaming revenue alone increased 57.4 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Amazon already had “Prime Music,” a streaming service of sorts, but its catalog had a mere two million songs, which sounds like plenty until you realize that Spotify has more than 35 million. Phew. (It would take over 171 years to listen to all of that music.)
The new Amazon Music Unlimited has tens of millions of tracks to choose from. So what does this mean for competitors, and most importantly, for consumers themselves?
Well, the standard service costs $10 a month, just like Spotify and Apple. But here’s the kicker: for Amazon Prime customers, it’s only $8 a month. And if you own Echo—Amazon’s popular voice-controlled speaker—it’s just half of that, a mere $4 a month.
Streaming through Echo has many perks: users can ask for specific artists and songs, but can also use vague commands like “Play The Strokes’ catalog between 2001 and 2006” or, “Play that song that goes ‘Baby, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream’,” to which the virtual assistant Alexa would respond with Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” However, customers who opt for the $4 Echo bargain won’t be able to listen to Amazon’s catalog anywhere but through the speaker. That may leave Apple and Spotify with an edge in our smartphone-driven world.
Unless our culture’s predilection for listening to music via smartphones is changing; Amazon’s head of music Steve Boom thinks so. “There’s a reason we’re focused on the voice experience—we believe music streaming is entering a new phase,” he told Billboard. “Historically, it’s been driven mostly by smartphones, but we believe quite strongly that there’s a new phase of growth coming for the music industry, and that’s connected smart devices. We wanted to really double down on our investment in voice and extend Amazon’s lead in the home.”
Supposedly Pandora’s streaming service is also coming soon, and then there’s Tidal, which is still hanging in there somehow. The battle continues.