back to top

Amazon's Music Streaming Service Is Finally Ready For "Prime" Time

Prime Music launches with six-month-old songs — and without Universal Music Group.

Posted on

Amazon has finally taken the dive into streaming music with the overnight launch of Prime Music, the internet retailer's new streaming offering available at no extra cost to Amazon Prime members.

As reported exclusively by BuzzFeed last month, the new service features only songs that are six months old and older and includes music from only two of the three major labels — Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. Amazon hasn't been able to license the music of Universal Music Group, the largest of the majors, whose artists include superstars like Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Coldplay.

Amazon says Prime Music has a catalog of "over a million songs," which is about 20 times fewer than what you'll find on competitive streamers like Spotify, Rdio, and Beats Music. Even beyond the six-month limitation, Amazon is licensing only a select batch of albums from partner labels that it thinks will do well with its customers.

But a small, curated stable of songs — available ad-free, with playlisting and offline capabilities — is still a notable bonus for Prime members, who pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping plus some free movies and TV shows to stream and access to an e-book lending library. Amazon likely hopes it will be enough to please the program's reported 20 million subscribers, who recently endured a $20 price hike, and entice a few more to join the ranks.

Music streaming is exploding right now thanks to Apple's recent $3 billion purchase of Beats and the steady rise of Spotify and Pandora, which have grown from niche and even controversial beginnings to become industry standards.