Tech

Could Amazon Prime Music be the surprise streaming winner?

With Apple Music launching to huge fanfare, excitement and Zane Lowe's excitable shouting on its radio station Beats One, it's only been in the past week that people have started to notice that it's not going terribly well.

And now they have a new rival on their hands in the form of Amazon Prime Music, which launches in the UK today following a successful rollout in the States in June. However, in what could end up being a canny move, it's not really trying to take on the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and the rest at their own game - more, this is the budget version for the casual music fan.

While Spotify and Apple Music both have a huge catalogue of 30 million songs (Apple Music even has Taylor Swift of course), Amazon Prime Music is settling for 'just' a million.

However, where both the streaming giants charge around £10 for a month's subscription (although Spotify does of course have its ad-laden free tier), Amazon Prime Music is offering it for free as part of its existing Prime service. And that service is now looking like a mighty good option, given that it entitles the user to next-day delivery, Amazon Prime TV and movie streaming, e-Book lending and photo hosting - all for just £79 a year (£6.58 a month).

We took a brief look around and, while it hasn't got the newest tracks in the top 40, there's still plenty of recent hits available. And in terms of older catalogue, the big bands are well-represented, while others just have their most famous records or greatest hits available. However, at launch, artists from Universal - one of the three major labels - are unavailable - they'll need to sort this out to gain big traction in the market. 

There are 505 pre-existing playlists available, including a good selection of Amazon-curated 'best of' playlists for big acts like Fleetwood Mac and The Smiths. Also, any albums previously bought on mp3 or CD via Amazon will also be available to you. Crucially, it's not attempting to combine your existing library of mp3s, in order to avoid any of the problems that Apple Music has suffered.

“We have lots of customers for which spending £120 a year on a music subscription service is too much,” said Paul Firth, head of music for Amazon UK. “The best music streaming service is the one you already have.”

It'll be available via Android and iOS apps, as well as through your browser; there's also an offline download option similar to Spotify. The interface isn't brilliant at the moment, but when it's this cheap, does it really matter?

Potentially, this 'casual' option could be a winner: after all, most people don't explore every single musical option out there - they just want some classics and a bit of new stuff - and this could do the job nicely.