Amazon launched Prime Music overnight in the United states, a free streaming music service that provides access to more than one million songs without ads. Free to all Prime subscribers, the service seems to be centred on playlists, with a number of pre-curated choices being presented to listeners when they log in.
There are around 90,000 albums listed totalling one million tracks. For context, Spotify has around 20 million.
Right now, it seems a little clunky. If you're not listening to a playlist, you have to go through several steps — including adding music to your library — before you can actually stream it.
Amazon is apparently planning to release Prime Music apps too, which will support for Kindle Fire, iOS, Android, PC, and Mac and provide unlimited offline playback. They're not yet available to download though — apart from for iOS — and it's not quite clear when they will arrive.
The New York Times has already reported the new service would launch without new releases and won't feature the catalogue of the Universal Music Group. That last part is a shame: Universal is the world's largest music company, so it will leave somewhat of a hole in the collection.
Licensing negotiations, according to the sources, have been tricky. They're claimed to have started six months ago, but were "slowed by disagreements over financial terms". Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, it was felt that Amazon wasn't offering enough.
The sources explained that Amazon offered a share in a $US5 million royalty pool, divided as it saw fit, to smaller music labels; larger ones were presented with one-off payments for a year of access to certain titles. Sony and Warner Music are both reported to have signed such deals.
So, Amazon doesn't seem to be offering a catalogue that should worry the likes of Spotify or Beats. Instead, it feels like Amazon wants to capture the ear of millions of casual music consumers who have yet to embrace music streaming. That's a huge yet tough market to tap — but it could prove very lucrative indeed.
Amazon Prime Music is currently only available in the United States.