Amazon introduces Prime Music – more value for your $99

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Date: Friday, June 13th, 2014, 08:49
Category: Amazon, Announcement, iOS, Mac, music, Opinion, Review, Services

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Amazon just announced the latest service in its Prime family, Prime Music, which together with Prime Instant Video and Prime Shipping will cost $99 a year. Earlier this year, Amazon increased the the price of a Prime subscription from $79 to $99, but at the time there was no indication that there would be any new features to offset the higher price-tag (unless you count the promise of a sky full of drones).

In an online letter to customers, pinned to the main page of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos introduces and extolls the benefits of the new service;

“Dear Customers,

A little more than 3 years ago we launched Prime Instant Video, adding unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows to the existing Prime benefit of Free Two-Day Shipping. It has turned out to be one of the most important things we’ve done for Amazon Prime members. Today, we are doing it again for music — introducing Prime Music, the newest benefit of Prime membership.”

In designing Prime Music, we wanted to remove the barriers between you and the music you love. We removed cost. You can listen to the entire Prime Music catalog for free — it’s included in your Prime membership. We removed interruptions. Don’t worry about having your music constantly disrupted by ads… you won’t hear any. We removed listening restrictions. Choose exactly what song to listen to, repeat your favorite song over and over again, or download music to your phone or tablet to listen offline.”

AmazonMusic_appiconThe letter goes on to highlight the service’s Prime Playlists, which provide collections of music based on genre, theme, mood, and artists, etc., similar to Apple’s Genius playlists or iTunes Radio. Something that’s interesting, given that Apple seems to have been pulling apps that download music from the App Store, is that with Amazon’s Music app version 3.0 (formerly Amazon Cloud Player), you can either stream your music selections from Amazon’s servers or download them to your device for offline playing. That may raise the question of whether Apple has been trying to cut out competition for its own services, or crack down on piracy.

Personally, I did have some music that was “AutoRipped” (?-I can’t find the reference now) when I purchased albums from Amazon that have been stored in my Cloud Drive, but I’ve never actually used it or the Cloud Player before. I had always used Amazon’s MP3 Downloader app to import into iTunes. The MP3 Downloader (which uses Adobe Air…blech) is still supported (it seems), but Amazon is now recommending the use of its new Amazon Music app for Mac and PC which acts as Amazon’s own iTunes-like app for playing, downloading, and purchasing music. I’ll review the new Mac and iOS apps in a separate post.

Now, maybe Amazon’s cloud services will have a little more kick. From your Amazon Music Library, you can add music from Prime Music, alongside music you’ve purchased, and play it online through a browser, computer, or mobile device, or offline on your computer or mobile device with the Amazon Music app for iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire HD and HDX (coming in a software update). In case you didn’t know, Amazon is happy to be the central place for all of your music. By default, you are allowed to upload 250 songs/tracks up to your Music Library for free, and any music bought through Amazon doesn’t count against that. If you have a more robust music collection and buy into Amazon’s cloud storage, you can upload 250,000 songs for an additional $24.99 per year.

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One thing I need to warn you about (well, a collective “one”) is that the initial set up for all this isn’t very intuitive. If you’re like me and haven’t really been using Cloud Drive or the former Cloud Player, you will have to “initialize” the new Amazon Music features of your Prime account from a web browser first. This proved more troublesome than I’d expected, and required going through a number of account navigation links before I could view my Music Library online and likewise have it sync on my iPhone. I thought this might simply be a transitional thing with the integration of the new service, but no, navigating your Amazon services and settings really seems to be an unintuitive kluge of menus. Your mileage may vary, and I hope you fare better, but don’t be in a rush when you decide to set this up. Hopefully, since Amazon is adding more and more services and menus, maybe it will take some time to clean up the account navigation.

So what do you think? Is Amazon catching up with Apple? Have you tried the new service and apps yet? Is it better than iTunes? Did you use Cloud Player before, and is this an improvement? Will this persuade you to buy more online music from Amazon than the iTunes Music Store? SO many questions and we haven’t even seen what Apple is going to do with Beats yet. Tell us what you think of the whole digital music scene in the comments or on the Facebook page.

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