Perhaps spurred by Apple's mammoth $3 billion purchase of Beats, online retailing giant Amazon.com pulled the pin a bit too early on its own music streaming service, Prime Music. As its name suggests, Prime Music is free to members of Amazon's Prime subscription service, joining a number of other similar perks. But the service itself is lackluster, with far fewer songs and supported music labels than competing services.
"Today we're introducing Prime Music," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is credited as saying in a press release, "[with] more than a million songs from some of music's best artists, plus hundreds of expert-programmed Prime Playlists, all at no additional cost. Prime Music is the latest great addition for Prime members and we think they're going to love it."
How you view Prime Music will depend on your relationship with Amazon.
For members of Amazon Prime, a subscription service that costs $99 per year, things have mostly gotten better over time. (Though a recent price hike disgruntled some customers.) The service offers free two-day shipping on many physical items sold through Amazon.com, plus access to a variety of digital services, including a lending library of over 500,000 Kindle e-books, a video streaming service called Prime Instant Video, and now the Prime Music streaming service. Since competing paid music services often cost about $10 a month, or about $100 to 120 a year, Prime Music is a relative bargain for anyone who takes advantage of Prime's other benefits.
But compared to competing streaming services, Prime Music comes up short and won't please most music lovers. The service is promoted as having commercial-free access to over one million songs and hundreds of playlists. But services like Spotify and Beats Music offer over 20 times that number of songs, and many more—and longer and better curated—playlists. Part of the problem is that Amazon went live with Prime Music before it was able to come to terms with Universal Music—the label behind such hit acts as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry—but also because of the vagaries of music licensing.
Amazon's frugal ways shine through in many of its online services, and Prime Music is no different. Its landing page for Prime Music playlists is a simple grid of text lists, and individual playlist pages, like those for MP3 albums on Amazon.com, are likewise Spartan and bare.
Amazon Prime Music is also no great deal for Windows users: While the native Amazon Music client for Windows desktop does support Prime Music, there are no Modern app or Windows Phone clients. Amazon only supports iPhone, iPad and Amazon handsets and tablets with native mobile apps. And given the poor quality of Amazon's other mobile apps for Windows 8.x and Windows Phone, it's unclear whether this situation will ever improve. The Kindle app is roughly a few years behind its iOS and Android siblings from a functionality standpoint, for example, and lacks many basic and key features.
Amazon might have good reason to snub Windows, however. The firm already makes Android-based Kindle Fire tablets and next week is expected to launch a new smart phone too. Amazon supports iOS because it has to—the iPhone and iPad are very popular with customers—and making its native apps available to other Android devices requires little work.