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Amazon shuffles its Prime Music offer, full 100 million track catalogue now available

By | Published on Wednesday 2 November 2022


Amazon has given the music service available within its Prime membership scheme a bit of shuffle, with a lot more music available, but more restrictions on functionality. Which means users will now have access to 100 million tracks rather than two million, but in the main will experience that music on ‘shuffle’ rather than via fully on-demand access.

Amazon Prime offers members various benefits, of course, including free delivery on goods bought via the main Amazon site and access to the company’s video-on-demand platform. A Prime Music service was first added into the mix in the US in 2014 and in the UK the following year.

In order to add the music element, Amazon committed to allocate a portion of the Prime subscription price to the music industry. However, on a individual user basis, that was going to be a relatively small amount of money when compared the the 70% of each subscription fee paid through to the music industry by standalone music streaming services.

Amazon therefore had to persuade the industry that this was something it might want to get involved with. The good news was that all this was first being developed around the time that record labels and music publishers were starting to think about how they might encourage more mainstream consumers to engage with streaming.

More mainstream consumers probably bought a couple a CDs a year in the pre-digital era, so were unlikely to pay 9.99 a month even to access millions of tracks. But if an alternative service was available at a lower price point – or bundled in as part of something bigger, like Amazon was proposing with Prime – the industry might still be able to get some income from those users.

However, any cheaper option for more mainstream consumers obviously had to offer less than the 9.99 a month services, but at the same time more than the ad-funded free tier options being offered by Spotify et al. The general consensus was that lower priced streaming should therefore be ad-free, but with either less music or less functionality than the 9.99 services.

Amazon Prime Music went with the less music approach. At launch users had access to about a million tracks, although big new releases would be missing. Since its launch, the catalogue has increased, but in a much more modest rate than with the 9.99 services, so that users had access to about two million tracks.

Subsequently Amazon expanded its wider music streaming business, including the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited, a more straight up Spotify competitor. It also launched another cheaper option with less functionality, so that while users could access the full catalogue of music, that music could only be played on a single device such as Amazon’s Echo smart speaker.

One of the challenges with the less music approach taken by Amazon Prime Music is that, for many users, two million tracks is more than enough, so why would they upgrade to a standalone music service and pay more? And, of course, as Amazon’s own music streaming business expanded, it was much more motivated to upsell standalone music services to Prime members.

You can exclude the big hits from Prime Music, of course, although that makes the whole thing less attractive, especially to those more mainstream consumers, and that might make them less likely to engage and potentially be sold a standalone music subscription.

Meanwhile, on the industry side, labels wanted the bundled service to have a smaller catalogue to set it apart from the standalone music services, but at the same time they wanted as many people as possible to be able to access their music.

So maybe it was inevitable that Prime Music would ultimately evolve into a less functionality rather then a less music service, meaning that within Prime it’s more of a personalised radio experience, with full on-demand functionality becoming available once a user upgrades.

There will be some ‘All-Access’ playlists within Prime Music which will be available on-demand and which can also be downloaded for offline listening. But the main offer is 100 million tracks on a big old shuffle. Oh, and ad-free podcasts. Never forget the ad-free podcasts.

Says VP of Amazon Music Steve Boom: “When Amazon Music first launched for Prime members, we offered an ad-free catalogue of two million songs, which was completely unique for music streaming at the time. We continue to innovate on behalf of our customers, and to bring even more entertainment to Prime members, on top of the convenience and value they already enjoy”.

“We can’t wait for members to experience not only a massively expanded catalogue of songs”, he adds, “but also the largest selection of ad-free top podcasts anywhere, at no additional cost to their membership”.

This story is discussed on this edition of our Setlist podcast.