Amazon made a splash last night when it announced Prime Music, a new service that lets subscribers to its Amazon Prime shipping service stream music for free. As a music fan and a subscriber to both Rdio and iTunes Match, I was interested to see what Amazon brought to the table.

What immediately stood out was the service’s patchwork selection. Amazon has clearly tried to focus on the most popular tracks available in order to make its service appeal to as many people as possible right out of the gate. But there’s a *lot of music* missing from Amazon’s catalog. It’s entirely possible I just have really strange musical taste, but at least a third of all the searches I ran against the Prime Music catalog turned up incomplete or nonexistent results.

PrimeMusic2I understand that the limited selection is directly tied to Prime Music’s low price, but that didn’t make the absence of my favorite tracks any less frustrating, and I expect other consumers will feel the same way.

On the bright side, the music that is available is high enough quality to sound good to my ears. Hardcore audiophiles may disagree with me, but I’ve found Prime Music’s audio quality is definitely good enough for listening on the go as well as relaxing at home.

Amazon’s curated playlists are another bright spot of the service. There are some times when I want to have total control over my listening experience, and other times when I want to sit back and let someone else take the reins. I haven’t been able to delve deeply into Amazon’s pre-built collections, but those I’ve tried have worked out well.

Listening to the music is a slightly different question. I tried using the Amazon Music app on my iPhone, and it worked fine. The scrubber for fast-forwarding or rewinding through songs is a bit too hidden for my taste, and album artwork is occasionally out of position, but the app made it easy for me to find music and listen to it.

PrimeMusic3I can’t exactly say the same about Prime Music’s web interface. There’s no way to listen to a full song on the web without first adding it to Amazon Music’s library and accessing it from there. In contrast, Beats Music’s whole desktop interface runs through the web, while Rdio and Spotify both have web players that aren’t hampered by the same restrictions Amazon places on its web streaming.

Right now, Prime Music isn’t the service I’d recommend to people who want a dedicated streaming service. That crown still resides with Rdio and Beats Music, depending on how and where people want to listen. But for people who have little to no interest in spending an extra $10 a month to get unlimited music streaming, the new service could be an interesting way to dip their toes in the streaming waters. What Prime Music has isn’t bad, but it doesn’t have enough music to compete with larger players right now.

The biggest outstanding question around Prime Music right now is how Amazon will choose to expand its offerings from here. Obviously, the company will continue to haggle for bargain-basement licensing fees, which may affect how well Prime Music can compete with other dedicated services. But if Amazon’s selection improves, I can easily see this service becoming a threat to leaders in the streaming market, if only because its customer base is huge.

People interested in giving Prime Music a shot can check out the service here.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • John Scott

    I also question the quality of stream? Some music sounds muffled. Again, probably trying to save money. Many probably won’t notice. Obviously Amazon is trying to provide a lot of services with Prime for $100 and still make money. Like their Prime video service. Don’t expect a lot for a little. Popular hits are fine to start, but you can get that on a free service.

    • Timothy Cunningham

      I don’t have prime, but I previously used Amazon mp3 and streamed through my phone and the quality was fine. With the rebrand to amazon prime, the music quality of my whole collection through amazon has degraded noticeably. Anyone else notice this?

  • Amazon Fan

    I vastly prefer Amazon’s playlists over other free services. With Pandora, for example, I have to a: deal with commercials and b: work to maintain the station so it plays the music I’m actually in the mood for. If I hit ‘like’ on the wrong song, the tone of the station goes in a direction that does not suit my tastes. I’ve had to delete stations and then re-create them to try to fix this.

    This is not an issue with Prime. Thank goodness.

    • onlycodered

      I know your comment is from 6 months ago but you can easily remove past “likes” from your Pandora stations so they don’t affect what’s played anymore.

  • Alan L Welsh

    I’ve recently bought into Amazon’s vision of the future in all types of media. That said, they have their work cut our for them making all the devices “sing together”, which today, they do not.

    My new Fire TV, new Kindle Fire HDX, Samsung Note 3, and PC web interface each must be learned individually. Each service works differently, assuming they even have the same services. For instance, I’ve already asked my Fire TV to, “show me, ‘Prime Music'”, or any “Music”, but it only returns a few old concert videos. Amazon could have at least provided an obvious button to screencast my HDX music to the FireTV.

    The Prime Music Store App UI on my HDX is lacking. For instance, the “X-Ray” screen goes black after a two minute timeout while playing music. I have yet to find and play my recently chosen playlists. (I’m happily back to my app on the HDX, with the fantastic contextual art, to boot).

    I’m optimistic that Amazon will tap their customer base as a tool to quickly innovate these disparate pieces. (See the GeekWire article: Amazon’s out to prove it can deliver the ‘whole package'”).

    Apple has great designers and hardware, Google has services, and Microsoft has platforms. But, Amazon’s advantage is the best customer-centric” focus, which is best expressed by their Mayday button. In addition to helping users, it could also be Amazon’s key to unlocking “perfect designs” by listening to each user’s problems in real time, and make the requested changes for all users.

    The value of Mayday is a direct link to Amazon’s designers. I’ve personally seen product changes I had discussed on Mayday. When designers are plugged directly into that channel, they will make product changes before anyone from Apple, Microsoft, or Google would even be aware of a problem.

    Provided Amazon perfects the Mayday channel into a designer tool, Amazon will eventually provide a better user experience and value than any of the big three, including Apple.

  • Hugo Martinez

    I am an avid music collector. I have the first 45 rpm I bought at 10 [The Bristol Stomp] to Martin Buttcher’s German crime film soundtracks. in 2009 I hired an assistant to digitize all my vinyl and download all the music I was missing past/future. Last year I started using Amazon Music to match and store my music. They represented that I could store 250,000 songs, max 200GB each, unlimited total size. After months of attempted uploads/downloads and countless trouble tickets, they finally admitted that the maximum uploads at a time was under 10,000 and the maximum downloads [read matched] was under 8,000 songs. “We appreciate your feedback and asure you our developers are working on it”; but not their advertising department? The real reason is that the technology was developed for the “normal” collector or better yet what they expected the normal collector to be, around 5,000 songs. Of course, they knew knew that they could lure the masses of small collectors, expecting to catch up as the boom increased. The boom is here and they are not but they’ve managed to still represent the inflated vastness of their product without any representation of the actual limits. I tried writing and, needless to say, malignant neglect. They are not the only company that bamboozles the public in the clouds. Microsoft represents that their Business cloud offers 1 terabyte of space with a max 20,000 files. Which business has less than 20,000 files at 1 terabyte? They also offer a terabyte of cheap cloud storage but no support. “Why aren’t the these 200 files not being uploaded?”, “Sorry, we don’t offer support”. In other words, You can trust us with your files in an untrustworthy storage. Mendacity!

  • Harry Piels

    Amazon prime “free” music is only free if you don’t want original songs. Then you mostly pay.up for anything that was a top hit on charts. .
    They keep throwing in songs and artists you don’t want and now there seems to be no way to delete them from your list.. I thought this was an added benefit but I’m becoming more frustrated the more I use it.

Job Listings on GeekWork