While it’s been known that this was going to happen eventually, today Amazon has launched its own music streaming service. They join an already-crowded landscape, with Pandora, Spotify, Beats, iTunes Radio and Google Play Music All Access already in the field. However, there are some big differences between Amazon and the others. If you have Amazon Prime, the $99/yearly service that gets its users free 2 day delivery on things they order, then you already have it. The Amazon Prime subscription service is offering one million songs right now. However, there are some caveats.
For one, while two of the three majors, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, have signed on, Universal Music Group, which includes Republic, Interscope, Capitol and Universal Music Enterprises, among many others, is holding out for now. Also, it’s only launching with catalog titles. Music needs to be at least six months old to be listened to on Amazon Prime. Prime members will be able to either stream or download music, but it will be tethered, meaning that once a member ends their subscription, their downloads disappear.
Behind the scenes, Amazon has drawn the ire of both the majors and indies over prices, which is likely why Universal is sitting things out for now. Amazon initially told the majors that they would pay them a pro-rated share of a $25 million pool, which would mean that it would be capping payments. It was even more dire for the indies, who were only promised their pro-rated share of a $5 million pool. Some indies have refused to sign on. The service also has to strike deals with music publishers and the three performance rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC).
There are less than 10 million Amazon Prime subscribers, and it’s not known how many of them will be interested in music streaming. That, combined with the holdout labels and a relatively sparse (comparatively) 1 million tracks suggests that Amazon Prime as a music subscription streaming service isn’t a game changer – at least not yet. The elephant in the room is YouTube, who plan on launching their own music streaming service sometime soon. The company is already one of the primary ways for the majority of internet users to listen to music, so they’ve already reached critical mass.