Inside Amazon’s Music Streaming Service For Prime Members

For $99, Prime members get a streaming video service, e-book lending library, free two-day shipping–and starting today, a music service.

Amazon is rounding out its Prime membership with the addition of a streaming music service. On Thursday the e-commerce giant launched Prime Music with more than 1 million tracks that members can listen to for no additional cost. The service will be available on iOS, Android, Macs, Windows computers, and Kindle tablets.


“Prime offers the best of Amazon,” vice president of digital music Steve Boom told Fast Company. “We think it’s a great addition to the lineup because now Prime is a pretty comprehensive digital music and digital entertainment experience.”

The Seattle-based company’s Prime membership, available for $99 annually, also includes a video streaming service, an e-book lending library for its Kindle devices, and complementary two-day shipping on millions of products sold through its online store.

Along with the debut of this new service, the company is rebranding its existing music offerings–the Amazon MP3 Store and Cloud Music Player–under the umbrella Amazon Music. With Prime Music, users can stream an unlimited amount of music online and download as many tracks as they want to their devices for offline listening. The ad-free service also doesn’t limit the number of skips or repeats users have.

Synchronized lyrics on Amazon Music.Image: Amazon

To distinguish between songs available on Prime and for purchase, the Amazon Music app will denote Prime songs with a small check mark and “P” next to the title, as well as a blue button to add the track to the library. In contrast, songs not available through Prime will feature a yellow button and price tag. When a song is playing, the Amazon Music app on Kindle tablets will display synchronized lyrics, a capability coming to other platforms later on this year, Boom said.

Like Beats Music, Prime Music takes both a computer-driven and human-curated approach to music recommendation. However, Amazon Music is notably devoid of sharing features, something the company could consider adding in the future based on user feedback, Boom noted.

Amazon already has plenty of data on customers’ previous music purchases, and that information feeds into its recommendation algorithm, along with songs streamed. One downside, however, is that the service is unable to distinguish between the music tastes of different household members, which means recommendations might run the gamut to include, say, One Direction (recommended for the daughter) and Bruce Springsteen (for dad). This is a problem Boom admits also plagues Amazon Instant Video. “There’s not a family account concept at this point,” he said.


Its other approach to recommendation is human curation, which can be found in playlists handpicked by a music editorial team. Several hundred playlists, roughly 20 to 50 tracks apiece, will be available at launch. Similar to Beats Music, some of these playlists are catered to moods and activities, such as music for reading or hip-hop for workouts.

Customers who previously purchased individual tracks on Amazon will see an option to flesh out albums and artist collections with songs available on Prime. “Because of people’s past purchasing habits on Amazon, we know things they like and can offer ways to round out their catalogs,” Boom said.

The company has more up its sleeve, as it plans to launch a new product–highly rumored to be a smartphone–at its Seattle headquarters next week.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.