Business News Digital

Amazon and Google launch freebie streams to help upsell subscriptions

By | Published on Tuesday 23 April 2019

Digital Music

Both Amazon and Google last week added a new ad-funded tier to their streaming music platforms, designed to hook users of their respective voice assistants into the idea of subscription streaming, with the ultimate aim of upselling a paid for option.

Amazon’s move into freebie streaming had been much rumoured before it made the option available to American users of Alexa-controlled devices. The web giant, which is fast becoming the third global player in premium streaming, already offers a selection of streaming music options at different price points.

Amazon Prime members can already access a limited catalogue streaming service for free. They can then upgrade for $3.99 a month to access a much bigger catalogue of music (ie pretty much in line with Spotify or Apple) via their Amazon Echo devices. Then, for the market standard $9.99, they can use Amazon Music Unlimited on all devices.

The new free-to-access limited-functionality service offers an entry point for possible subscribers who are not part of the Amazon Prime programme, which most people initially sign-up to either for the free delivery of products bought from the Amazon store or to access Amazon’s much more high-profile video-on-demand offering.

The freebie service will take users to pre-programmed playlists and ‘stations’ based on the song title, artist name or genre that they angrily shout in Alexa’s general direction.

Although there was more chatter about Amazon’s move into freebie streaming, Google last week also announced a similar free music service that works on its Google Home devices and any other smart speaker using the Google Assistant.

Users of said devices in multiple countries – including the UK – can access a free limited-functionality version of YouTube Music. Which is to say, a free version of the YouTube audio streaming service launched last year, rather than the main YouTube site, which has – of course – long been a free (only slightly) limited-functionality music platform too.

The move is also a further sign of Google shifting all of its music activity over to the YouTube brand, and away from its Google Play platform.

The music industry, of course, has long had a love/hate relationship with free streaming. Music companies generally recognise that ad-funded streaming has helped with the battle against piracy worldwide and has kick-started new opportunities in certain emerging markets.

No one likes the fact free streams result in much lower royalties though. To that end, labels and publishers tend to prefer free services which are – in part at least – trying to upsell a premium offer, with the aim of converting more consumers to more lucrative paid-for streaming options. Which is what these new free services seem to be mainly about.