You have a practically endless array of music-streaming services to choose among, from the big competitors to more niche players, and pure streaming apps to radio apps. But most people consider the top contenders for an honored place on their smartphone — and perhaps for a monthly subscription fee — to be Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. But it turns out that there’s another option you should consider, especially if you find apps like Spotify too cluttered or too complicated when all you want to do is listen to a favorite album on your way home from work.
Ben Sisario reports for The New York Times that Amazon has taken an approach different from its competitors’ in building its music-streaming service. Amazon Prime Music is available to subscribers to the company’s $99-per-year Prime program. It offers approximately a million songs, which is just a fraction of the size of the catalog available from services like Spotify and Apple Music. (Each of those services reportedly has more than 30 million tracks.) Also absent from Amazon Prime Music are current hits by artists like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and The Weeknd.
But Amazon Prime Music is unique in that it’s focusing on what may prove to be a vast part of the audience for streaming music: casual listeners, and families. Analysts say that these users may not mind the absence of some current hits, not only because the service is essentially icing on the cake (the cake consisting of the shipping discounts and the licensed and original video streaming options that entice most users to purchase a Prime membership).
Russ Crupnick of research firm MusicWatch told the Times, “There are people on the cutting edge of music who really want to be deep into the catalog, and then there are a lot of mainstream music fans for whom just having some good music to listen to is sufficient. That’s where a service like Amazon works out just fine.”
Amazon hasn’t disclosed how many people use Amazon Prime Music, and the estimates on the topic vary widely. MusicWatch used surveys to estimate that approximately 8.5 million people listen to Amazon’s service for at least an hour each month, but some music executives who have dealt with Amazon put the user base closer to the 3 million or 4 million user mark. Either way, that leaves a huge amount of room for growth, as Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that the overall Amazon Prime program has 44 million subscribers just in the United States.
But that’s still far below the subscriber numbers for Spotify, which has 75 million users, including 20 million paid subscribers, or even the newly-launched Apple Music service, which has attracted 15 million users, 6.5 million of whom are paying subscribers. Both of those services cost $10 per month for a standard subscription. Pandora has 78 million users, including 3.9 million who pay $5 a month for the advertising-free Pandora One service.
As Sisario reports, analysts report that the growth of Amazon Prime Music since its launch in June 2014 illustrates how quickly a major technology company can amass an audience that’s large enough to challenge more established streaming services, especially when, as Amazon has done, it bundles its music offerings with its other services.
Amazon vice president of digital music Steve Boom told Sisario that the company began developing its approach toward streaming music as the market for streaming music began to shrink. “As customers have been shifting toward streaming, we knew we would ultimately have to get there.” Amazon, which is, by some accounts, the largest retailer of CDs and records, determined that its customers wanted to be able to stream music without being interrupted by ads, to skip songs when they wanted to, and to save songs on their mobile devices for offline listening.
Boom says that most customers don’t need the full catalog that competitors like Spotify offer. “We went for a bit more of a mainstream listener,” Boom explains, “for whom access to everything at all times wasn’t necessarily the main thing.” The result is a streaming service that is a cross between Spotify and Pandora, with on-demand access to specific tracks, plus playlists, recommendations, and radio-like feeds of songs organized by genre or artist. Unlike Spotify, which attracts a younger audience with offerings in hip-hop and electronic dance music, Amazon Prime Music emphasizes pop, indie rock, and children’s music, which has helped it cultivate an audience of young families.
What may be the best thing about Amazon Prime Music is that for users who already have a membership to Amazon Prime, it doesn’t cost anything extra to try. And as an Amazon Prime membership is an increasingly popular way to get media, household essentials, and just about anything else you can imagine delivered quickly and conveniently, Amazon Prime Music may just be enough for you to cross off an extra streaming service subscription fee from the list of bills to pay (or autopay) each month. The bottom line is that for Amazon’s many Prime members who simply want to be able to stream music, and don’t need a huge catalog of tracks to enjoy it, there’s little to lose in trying Amazon Prime Music.