Amazon today announced a new benefit for its Prime members which could lure some subscribers away from other music services, like Apple Music or Spotify. The company said it will now offer Prime subscribers a full music catalog with 100 million songs, instead of the previously more limited selection of just 2 million songs, and will make most of the top podcasts on its service available without ads. In addition, the Amazon Music app is getting a revamp, which includes a new "Podcast Previews" feature that will allow customers to listen to short clips as a way to discover new podcasts they may like.
The move is a direct shot at streaming music competitors, especially Spotify, which has been moving into the podcasts market as a means of generating additional revenue. But Spotify's paying subscriber base is growing frustrated with the fact that they still have to listen to podcast ads, despite paying for the service. Amazon Music's promise of ad-free podcasts along with a full music catalog could make for a compelling alternative, the retail giant hopes.
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Among the ad-free podcasts are shows from top brands like CNN, NPR, The New York Times and ESPN.
Other ad-free shows include the Wondery catalog of podcasts, like "Dr. Death," "SmartLess" and "Even the Rich," and new Amazon Exclusive shows including "MrBallen Podcast: Strange, Dark & Mysterious Stories;" "Suspect: Vanished in the Snow;" "COLD Season Three: The Search for Sheree;" "Killer Psyche Daily;" "I Hear Fear," narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress Carey Mulligan; and a weekly bonus episode of "The Old Man and the Three," hosted by former NBA player JJ Redick. The Amazon Exclusive podcast series "Baby, this is Keke Palmer," from the actress and entrepreneur Keke Palmer (NOPE) also debuts today.
Amazon, in announcing the news, acknowledged that Prime Music's more limited catalog was no longer the big selling point for consumers it once was.
"When Amazon Music first launched for Prime members, we offered an ad-free catalog of 2 million songs, which was completely unique for music streaming at the time," said Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music, in a statement about the launch. “We continue to innovate on behalf of our customers, and to bring even more entertainment to Prime members, on top of the convenience and value they already enjoy. We can’t wait for members to experience not only a massively expanded catalog of songs, but also the largest selection of ad-free top podcasts anywhere, at no additional cost to their membership," he added.
In addition to the expansion of the service and ad-free podcasts, the Amazon Music app will gain a new look, most notably with the launch of the new Podcasts Preview feature. This allows customers to listen to a short soundbite from a podcast episode to help them make a decision as to whether it's something they would like.
Prime members will use the main Amazon Music app to access the full music catalog, Amazon says. The app also offers standard features like the ability to shuffle-play any artist, album or playlist, stream personalized playlists, download songs for offline listening and more. While Prime members won't be able to stream music on-demand without upgrading to the paid tier, the larger catalog may make sense for more casual music listeners who prefer a more lean-back experience.
The company's previously broader music service, Amazon Prime Unlimited, is not going away. The service, which costs for $8.99/month or $89/year, will give users access to all songs on-demand in HD (16-bit/44.1 kHz) and UHD (24-bit/44.1 to 192 kHz) quality across all devices. Plus, this premium tier offers millions of songs in the spatial audio format.
The changes follow Amazon's move to raise the annual price of its Prime free shipping program earlier this year from $119 to $139, raising concerns that Prime membership is becoming too expensive -- particularly given the current economic climate where consumers are struggling with the cost of goods and gasoline. While Amazon has added other benefits in recent days, like a Grubhub+ membership, a large music catalog could make for a better selling point if it allows customers to cancel another music subscription and make a switch.
Additional reporting: Ivan Mehta