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June 12, 2014

Amazon Launches Subscription Music Service


The idea of Prime Music, a subscription-based streaming music service powered by Amazon, has been on the table for some time now, so to actually see it go live is almost as much of a relief as it is a surprise. Though looking at the internals of Prime Music, it's easy to see how some users might find the whole package a bit of a disappointment, especially when compared against the many competitors that Prime Music has in the field.

The good news is that Prime Music is actually free for Amazon Prime members, which makes the idea of an Amazon Prime membership that much more attractive. The bad news is that, despite the free price tag, there are actually quite a few external constraints on the system as a whole. Reports suggest that Amazon Prime will have absolutely no music from Universal Music Group—which represents the biggest music label on the face of the Earth—and songs from other major labels won't actually arrive on Amazon Prime until fully six months after said songs were released.

That puts Prime Music at something of a disadvantage, which is probably the last place any new service wants to be just as it's being released. That's led more than a few people to wonder why Amazon would bother releasing the service in the first place, but the possibilities are worth considering. Perhaps the biggest point to note is that this essentially serves as another inducement, albeit a small and somewhat flawed inducement, to get Amazon Prime service. The recent price hike at Amazon Prime might still be stinging a few customers, so for Amazon to throw in a little extra inducement to stick around might not be a bad idea. Granted, the added inducement in question isn't really as good as that of its competitors, but said competitors don't come with an array of streaming movies and television shows as well as free shipping on ordered goods.

Image via Shutterstock

Plus, there's the matter of the competitors in the first place. Most subscription music services have a free component, and for the most part, this is what people turn to. Jimmy Iovine of Beats Music recently noted that Spotify has just 10 million subscribers, while Pandora's free service beats that by nearly eight to one at 77 million users just in the United States. There's also a valid comparison between Prime Music and Prime Instant Video; while today, Prime Instant Video is regarded as serious competition for Netflix—particularly after landing HBO's old shows exclusively—it didn't start off that way just a few years prior. Thus, there's room to consider that, maybe, Prime Music is going to grow as time goes along; there's valid precedent enough for that tactic, as it certainly worked for Prime Instant Video.

Just for a final slice of speculation, there's the matter of the potential Amazon smartphone that's expected to emerge June 18. A music service goes hand in hand with a smartphone; since a smartphone can, and often does, function like a portable MP3 player, the idea that this service might expand outward—some have wondered if Amazon won't offer free listening to Prime members without it counting against a data plan—could come into play here.

There are some major possibilities ahead for Prime Music. Though not all of these are compelling, when taken together, said possibilities represent a major potential sea change afoot for those who have Amazon Prime service, or for those who may just be considering getting in on the action.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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