Here comes Prime Music, a free service for Amazon Prime subscribers with over a million songs available for streaming and cached download. Amazon Prime was already an amazing deal—perhaps the best in all of tech—and today, it's getting even better.
Like free two-day shipping and Prime Instant Video, Prime Music will be one of the services included with your £79 per year Prime membership. It'll work on your computer, through new Amazon Music apps on Android and iOS, and baked directly into the Music tab of the Kindle Fire HD and HDX. The old Cloud Player app for iOS and Android will now be consolidated with the new service. In addition to streaming music over Wi-Fi or a data connection, you'll be able to download the songs for playback when you're not connected.
Unlike Spotify or Beats Music, Prime Music won't aim to be an exhaustive catalogue of songs, but rather just an attractive selection of stuff you might want to listen to. It'll be lacking some deep cuts, but that might not be the end of the world seeing as nobody listens to much of the music on services with 20 million-plus songs.
What will Amazon have? The company locked down two out of three major labels for its service (Warner and Sony but not Universal) as well as a handful of indies. In recent weeks we'd heard reports that the service would get new music six months after release, but according to Amazon's VP for Digital Music Steve Boom, the focus will be on popularity rather than street date. You won't necessarily find the latest hits the day they come out, but you'll find a lot of music that's in the Top 100. In a briefing earlier this week, Boom admitted that this characterisation was a little nebulous, so we'll have to wait until the service rolls out today to see what's available and what's not. From a list provided by Amazon, there'll be a lot big names like Shakira, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, etc.
Licensing negotiations, according to 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 $5 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.
The service will also seek to integrate the music you already in a number of ways. Naturally Amazon will use the its massive vault of data to make recommendations for related music you might be interested it. On top of that, if you have one song by an artist in your Cloud Player, Amazon will help you add the rest of an album or catalogue by that same artist to your collection with just a click. As with items in Amazon's video catalog, stuff that's available in Prime Music will be signalled with a little blue sash.
Amazon has also hired a team of music experts to curate a long list of playlists with both thematic and genre focus, including "Bollywood Lounge Grooves," "Pre-Party: R&B for Getting Glam," and "Road Tripping with the Kids." And maybe even one you want to listen to.
At this point, I've only seen a very brief demo of Prime Music in action, but the implementation seems very familiar to anyone who has used Amazon's other services. It's definitely not the most extensive music collection out there, but one million songs is a formidable catalogue that will give a lot of people what they want from a music service without having to pay a penny more for their Amazon Prime.