Amazon is boosting its streaming music subscription offerings with a new Amazon Music Unlimited service that will provide customers with tens of millions of songs to choose from, an increase from the two million songs currently available for free to Amazon Prime customers.
The paid service is priced at $7.99 a month or $79.99 a year for Prime members, or $9.99 a month for non-Prime customers, for one account for all of a user's devices. The company is also offering a $3.99 monthly subscription for Amazon Echo users to get music on one Echo, Echo Dot or Amazon Tap device. Echo subscribers who want to expand their service to their other devices can upgrade to a standard plan later at the rates for those plans.
The new on-demand Amazon Music Unlimited service, which also includes access to more than 1,000 hand-curated music playlists, was announced on Oct. 12. Also featured is a redesigned Amazon Music app and new Amazon Alexa voice controls that allow users to find and select their music using voice commands.
Amazon's Prime accounts, which are $99 per year if purchased in advance in one payment, provide customers with free unlimited two-day shipping on millions of Amazon Prime-eligible products, free limited music and movie streaming, secure photo storage and other benefits.
With the new music streaming service, Amazon Echo users are able to ask the Alexa personal digital assistant to play a particular song or ask for help in finding the name of a song, using Alexa's machine learning skills. Users can also ask Alexa to play music from certain bands, decades or other categories through their Amazon Music Unlimited accounts.
The latest Amazon Music app is available for Amazon Fire devices, Android, iOS and PC and Mac desktop users. The redesigned apps get new interfaces that emphasize artist images and album art, while putting music discovery and playback into the forefront, according to Amazon. A new "Home" feature in the apps showcases selections by Amazon Music editors , a "Recommended" feature where customers can find personalized music suggestions and a "Now Playing" feature featuring synchronized lyrics so users can follow along to their musical selections.
A "For Family" multiuser subscription plan will be available later in 2016 for up to six family members for $14.99 a month or $149 a year. Amazon Music Unlimited also will be available for customers in the UK, Germany and Austria this year, according to the company.
"Amazon Music Unlimited brings real value to the millions of people who are already Prime members, with a choice of subscribing for only $7.99 a month or even $79 per year," Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said in a statement. "And if you want a sense of the future of voice-controlled music, go ahead and ask Alexa for a free Music Unlimited trial, and play around on your Echo. If you don't know the name of a song but know a few lyrics, if you want to hear songs from a specific decade, or even if you're looking for music to match your mood, just ask."
In September, a report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said that paid subscription revenue for streaming music was up 57 percent in the first half of 2016 in the United States compared with a year ago, giving a lift to the music industry as it continues its transformation away from the sales of CDs, digital downloads and vinyl albums. Streaming music revenue in the first half of 2016 totaled $1.6 billion in the U.S., compared with about $1.02 billion for the same period a year ago, the report stated.
The U.S. logged 18.3 million paid music streaming subscriptions in the first half of 2016, compared with 9.1 million in 2015 and 7.9 million in 2014, according to the RIAA. Each subscription can have multiple users, meaning the number of users could be substantially higher than those totals. Revenue is based on subscriptions and not on total users, however.
The growth in digital music subscriptions in the U.S. in the first half of 2016 follows two big developments in the streaming music industry—the June 2015 launch of the Apple Music streaming service, and the growth and pricing changes coming from streaming vendor Spotify.
Apple Music was launched in June 2015 as the company dove into the growing streaming-music market with a $9.99-a-month service that aimed to take on established competitors, such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora. A family membership for up to six users is $14.99 a month.
In May, Spotify dropped the price of its Spotify Family Plan premium music-streaming services to $14.99 for up to six family members, saving a family of six about $20 per month over its former rates. The music-streaming company unveiled its lower prices to replace its old pricing structure of $9.99 for the first user and $5 each for each additional user for family members. The new Spotify Family Plan rate puts the service on par with Apple Music.