Review by Andrew Kameka on Thursday June 12, 2014.
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Amazon's rumored premium music service, Prime Music, officially launched today. However, it's not a standalone service. Instead, it's a bonus feature that gives Amazon Prime subscribers in the US a chance to enjoy music at no extra cost.
Amazon charges customers $99 per year for free shipping and low-cost express shipping, but it also offers members perks like free streaming of certain TV shows and movies. The Prime Instant Video doesn't grant complete access to its library of content, but it has a mix of popular shows, somewhat recent releases, and a few critically-acclaimed gems users might not have heard. The same concept applies to Prime Music. The streaming service limits users to a little over 1 million songs that are a mix of classics like Sade or Hall & Oates and current pop songs from Blake Shelton or MGMT. Users can add songs or albums to their library and then stream them or download the songs for offline playback.
Songs in Prime Music are recommended based on the user's previous purchases. You can also discover music by listening to Prime Playlists that curate along genres, moods, or activities. Though all these features are integrated into the Amazon MP3 app on Android and iOS, and it's mainly a seamless experience. Songs added from Prime Music are automatically included in your Amazon Cloud account, making it possible to create playlists containing songs purchased from Amazon, added through Prime, or uploaded from your personal collection.
Prime Music is probably not a threat to established music streaming services like Spotify or Google Music because the library is so minuscule. Universal Records doesn't support Prime, which leaves out a large number of famous artists and songs. Warner and Sony are signed on, but not their full catalogs, meaning Prime Music only offers 1 million songs. By comparison, Amazon sells more than 30 million songs.
Using Prime Music requires that users be comfortable with missing out on some of their favorite artists and music, so there's a strong possibility listeners will be better served by just paying their monthly fee to dedicated services. Prime Music is really only beneficial to the casual music fan who would like to have some extra songs added to his or her collection without having to pay $9 per month. If you purchase music from Amazon, it can also be a good way to beef up your library. Perhaps you're sick of the ads in Pandora and willing to take a chance on a much smaller but ad-free alternative. If you're already paying Amazon for Prime service, Prime Music is just one of the perks of doing business, not a main draw.
Amazon Prime Music requires an Amazon Prime subscription ($99 per year) but you can get a 30-day trial at amazon.com/prime.
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.