Amazon is announcing a streaming music service for Prime users today. The tens of millions of Prime customers who pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping will now have access to a catalog of more than 1 million songs.
Amazon Prime Music will compete with the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and Apple’s Beats Music. Streaming music services like these are becoming increasingly popular. Pandora says it has 77 million active members, and Spotify boasts 40 million. Beats was recently acquired by Apple, and its nascent service might end up combined with the enormous iTunes Store.
Unlike Pandora and Spotify, Amazon Prime Music will not have a free version supported by advertising; it’s available only to paying Prime subscribers. These customers will be able to choose stations that are populated for the user, as on Pandora, or they’ll be able to choose specific songs, as on Spotify.
Songs will also be available for download and offline play, as long as the user retains his or her Prime membership.
Additionally, if users have existing purchased songs in their library they can create mix-and-match playlists with songs they own and those downloaded from Prime Music. While the complete catalog does boast a million songs, competing services have far more. Spotify, for example, gives you access to about 20 million songs; Rdio, another streaming music service, also features 20 million songs.
Individual label deals and access to current releases on the streaming service will vary. Amazon declined to identify a specific window of time that must pass before a hit is available for streaming, but it did add that users could purchase current hits and combine them with older music available with their Amazon Prime subscription on Prime Music.
“We’re offering up over a million tracks of great music. You’re not going to find everything under the sun in the Prime Music catalog,” said Amazon’s VP of digital music, Steve Boom. “But that’s where we’re starting today, and you’re going to see more music added over time.”
At launch, Prime Music will work on a PC or Mac, and there will be apps for iOS and Android. It is not immediately compatible with the Sonos wireless music system.
Amazon has another big announcement scheduled for next week. On June 18, the company is holding an event at which it is expected to launch its own mobile phone. That will add to Amazon’s growing roster of media consumption devices: Kindle book readers, Fire tablets, and the Fire TV set-top box. The similarity to Apple and Google is notable, except that Amazon doesn’t sell its own laptop computer.
Amazon appears to be extending the membership model. CEO Jeff Bezos has reportedly been deeply influenced by the Costco model of paid membership, low margins, and high sales. It’s a different strategy from Apple’s hardware-focused business or Google’s data-driven model, but for the consumer the value may be compelling.