Amazon Launches Its ‘Music Unlimited’ Streaming Service

The online behemoth is aiming to destroy the competition with a lower price and Echo-integration

Will Amazon's Echo be the key to winning the streaming wars? — REUTERS
Oct 12, 2016 at 1:55 PM ET

By now it’s clear: Amazon wants to be a one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs. Last week it launched Prime Reading, which lets you read endless amounts of books, and on Wednesday it unveiled Music Unlimited. The new service will offer on-demand streaming of “tens of millions of songs” with no ads, unlimited skipping, and offline listening.

Music Unlimited has an awful lot in common with competitors like Spotify and Apple Music, but its price is substantially lower. If you’re already part of the Amazon Prime army, you can subscribe for an additional $8 per month or $79 a year. (Non-Prime users will pay $10/month, which is the same as what most other streaming services are charging.) And for the extremely frugal, there’s also a $4/month per month option. For that very low price, you have to own an Amazon Echo speaker, and can only listen on that single device.

But another big factor that sets Music Unlimited apart is its seamless integration with the Echo, Amazon’s voice-activated speaker. This feature is meant to appeal to the truly lazy among us, since it means you can sit back and simply say, “Alexa, play me Lady Gaga’s new album,” and she will serve it up. You can even give her a snippet of lyrics and she’ll try to find the song that matches. No more scrolling through long lists of songs on your iPhone or trying to remember the name of the song you used to slow dance to in the eighth grade.

Otherwise, Amazon Music Unlimited is very much in line with the other streaming leaders. It uses algorithms to both suggest new music and create playlists, though it also has playlists curated by real people as well. You can access it on your desktop or an app (available for Android, Sonos, and iOS), and obviously you can stream it using your Echo and on your Amazon Fire tablet or TV, too.

This is only the beginning of Amazon’s all-out assault on the competition, and it looks like the next step will be to launch a family plan similar to those already offered by other streaming services. It remains to be seen whether Music Unlimited’s low price and Echo-only features will be enough to steal massive audiences away from other more established streaming services. But if Amazon showed us anything in the past, it’s that it has the ability to enter a marketplace and crush even the strongest competition.