Amazon unveils Prime Music, removes the 'barrier' of choice

Amazon unveils Prime Music, removes the 'barrier' of choice
The home page for Amazon's new streaming service, Amazon Prime Music, was unveiled on Thursday. (Amazon)

Online retail giant Amazon has unveiled its new streaming service, called Prime Music, one more addition to the company's growing list of perks provided to premium members.

As Amazon's video service does with movies and TV shows, Prime Music promises unlimited access to a volume of songs, catalog albums and myriad playlists. In the process, the company is dipping its toes in the increasingly competitive world of online music streaming.


It joins a field that includes Google Music, Spotify, the newly Apple-acquired Beats Music, Rdio and others, all of which promise universal access to cloud-based music.

In its announcement, Amazon, which has been in the news lately for what some consider its heavy-handed pricing negotiations with book publisher Hatchette and production studio Warner Bros., promised its members ad-free access "to over a million songs and hundreds of expert-programmed Prime Playlists. Prime Music includes tens of thousands of albums from top artists like Daft Punk, P!nk, Bruno Mars, Blake Shelton, the Lumineers, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna."

That number, "over a million," is much fewer than other services' catalogs, which range from 15 million to 20 million songs. As such, Prime Music is heavy on the big names but notably thin on catalog.

The most confusing part of Amazon's offering -- besides a baffling search engine that doesn't seem to distinguish between what's available for stream and what's available for sale -- is Prime Music's concluding pitch: "Finally, we removed one more barrier -- deciding what to listen to. Just play any of the hundreds of Prime Playlists our music experts have created for you."

That's right. With Prime Music, the hassle of choice has become a "barrier" to listening to music.

Amazon breaks through this so-called hurdle through playlists curated by either human or machine (it doesn't indicate which) with titles including "Classics for Cleaning," "Hard Rock, Hard Body," "Indie Romance" and dozens of others.

Do you sling coffee for a living? Amazon knows what you listen to with its "Beards and Baristas: Indie Beats" playlist, which promises in its description to deliver "electro infused indie music for the discerning hipster." Artists include Passion Pit, LCD Soundsystem, Tori Y Moi, Neon Indian, Washed Out and more Passion Pit.

Looking to seduce your boyfriend? Dive into "X-Rated Slow Jams ...," which offers bawdy ballads by artists including Prince ("Insatiable"), Ginuwine ("In Those Jeans," what else?), Tyrese's "Songs of Love Makin'," Ciara's "Body Party" and Pretty Ricky's "Topless."

There are playlist categories for Christian music, rock, hip-hop, country and all your basic genres. A group of lists dubbed "Work, Study, Reading" includes one called "For Reading: Historical Fiction," which is described as music to "envelop yourself in the past with a good book and these instrumental melodies." To wit: Rachmaninoff, John Tesh, the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and the London Harpsicord Ensemble. There are also lists for reading nonfiction, graphic novels and literary fiction, among others.

Yes, that's quite an assumption, to suggest that listening habits can be categorized based on reading habits.

Based on a few hours of browsing, Amazon's got a lot of work to do reconciling its Prime Music with reality and may not draw many hardcore music fans to its service. There's not much there. But obsessive listeners probably aren't Amazon's demographic, anyway.

Looking for music tips? Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit