For once, Amazon, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant, is late to the party.
This week saw the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited — an augmented version of the company’s mediocre streaming service, Prime Music. At $7.99 a month for Prime members (if you aren’t a Prime member, you pay two more dollars), the service offers “Side-by-Sides,” a large increase in available songs, and Alexa compatibility.
Side-by-Sides are Amazon’s way of providing exclusive content to their listeners. As a sort of “behind the scenes” feature, listeners can access commentary on albums and tracks from their favorite musicians.
The fact that the service is compatible with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant by way of the Echo, gives the service its edge. But the obvious advantage is that Amazon is finally advertising “tens of millions” of songs.
Up until this week, Amazon customers only had access to Prime Music which featured around two million songs, a small amount compared to other streaming services. Music Unlimited is their rather meager attempt to enter the streaming big leagues, alongside players like Spotify and Apple Music.
Alexa compatibility aside, there is little incentive to become a Music Unlimited member, namely paying an additional fee to access music when a customer is already paying $99 a year for a Prime membership. Not to mention the fact that a customer must have an Echo to reap Alexa’s benefits with the service, and the Music Unlimited interface is pretty clunky (carried over from Prime Music).
That being said, there still isn’t a “perfect” streaming service. Spotify, the seasoned elder of the streaming family, features very well crafted playlists and a highly intuitive interface, while failing design-wise. Apple Music succeeds where Spotify fails with a beautifully simple interface that is pleasing to the eye, but may be plain to a fault. Apple Music’s curated playlists pale in comparison to those of Spotify, and the user experience isn’t nearly as seamless either. Tidal doesn’t seem to be well received at all, except for members who want early access to Kanye West’s artistic releases.
While Music Unlimited is an honorable attempt, Amazon still has a long way to go. As far as the streaming field goes, there are still a lot of bases to hit. Hopefully in the future, these apps will fix their shortcomings, or perhaps another player will be presented. But until then, users will have to choose their battles.