Amazon launches ad-free music streaming service for Prime members

Sean McMullan (left), director, International Expansion, Amazon Music, and Sahas Malhotra, director, Amazon Music India at the launch of Amazon Prime Music in Mumbai. Photo: KAMLESH PEDNEKAR
To make its Prime offering more lucrative, Amazon India has launched Amazon Prime Music, an ad-free music streaming service. The service is available exclusively for Prime members and includes features like unlimited offline downloads, and voice controlled search with Amazon’s personal assistant software — Alexa.

Amazon Prime membership currently costs Rs 999 annually and it includes features like free delivery and access to Amazon Prime video services. The service has access to music from about 300 international labels and leading Indian labels across languages (film and non-film).

Amazon Prime Music houses a variety of songs across major International and Indian music labels in over 10 languages, including English, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali, Kannada, and Telugu, among others. Amazon Prime Music will be available on Android and iOS mobile phone apps, Desktop app and Web player, Amazon Fire TV sticks and Amazon Echo devices.

Amazon enters the music streaming market after Gaana.com, Hungama and Saavn have established their presence. Along with YouTube, these players dominate the majority of the online music streaming space. However, the space maybe looking at a shake-up in the coming days since Prime Music comes with an ad-free proposition at no added cost to Prime members. Other players in the market include services from telcos like Wynk from Airtel and Jio Music.

“Any new entrant would shake up the market, and a big one like Amazon would definitely (do so). For Amazon, it’s part of a bigger business which is its Prime product so the investments on Music acquisition will be part of the Prime (budget) allocation. Having Prime Video will make a huge difference when it comes to signing content deals with music labels and film studios in the future as well. On the consumer front too, having multiple offerings under one umbrella will ease customer acquisition,” says a media and entertainment analyst.

Amazon Prime had about 610,000 members at the end of 2017 according to a report by IHS Markit.

Being a late entrant in the space though meant that the company had to push the envelope to attract consumers and this required a fair bit of research and innovation.

Sahas Malhotra, director, Amazon Music India, says, “We went back to the drawing board on this one. India is a special market in that it consumes a large amount of music, but it does so in different languages as well. So, we wanted to curate a library that has something for everyone. Another pain-point we learnt was the interference caused by ads while listening to music (on streaming apps). Prime Music is completely ad-free to address that.”

While Amazon Prime Music service was launched in 2014 in US, the company says that the custom services launched for the Indian market encompass the best of all their experience from across 30 active markets. A distinct feature of the Prime Music app is the voice-enabled search. Companies are fast realising that voice is the next big thing when it comes to search, especially within entertainment, since it provides an easier option to typing. Zee’s recently launched over-the-top app Zee5 boasts of a similar feature, allowing users to search for content in the app using voice instructions.

To use Alexa voice controls on Amazon Prime Music, the user needs to tap the Alexa icon in the Amazon Prime Music app and ask for songs, albums, genre or artist of choice. Amazon’s Echo speakers powered by Alexa were launched in India across retail outlets earlier this month although they were launched online in October 2017.

On the e-commerce front, this launch further intensifies the battle between global behemoth Amazon and homegrown giant Flipkart. Amazon has built a war chest of Rs 62 million last year while Flpikart raised a little less than Rs 4 billion from new and existing investors also roping in Tencent, Softbank and Microsoft among others. American retailer Wal-Mart is now also looking for a large stake in Flipkart, according to an Economic Times report. The only concern for Flipkart in the ecommerce game remains Amazon’s hugely popular Prime program which has just dropped another bomb with this free music service.

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