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article imageAmazon launches Music Unlimited: a budget-priced Spotify rival

By James Walker     Oct 12, 2016 in Technology
Amazon has officially launched a new music streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, with a catalogue of "tens of millions" of songs. It enters a crowded market led by Spotify and Apple Music. Amazon already has one streaming provider, Prime Music.
In a statement today, Amazon said Music Unlimited "redefines" music streaming by giving you access to tens of millions of songs, thousands of hand-curated playlists and a selection of personalised experiences. These are features that Amazon's rivals have had for years.
Amazon isn't betting on these capabilities as the "redefining" element of Music Unlimited though. The service integrates with the company's Alexa digital assistant to allow you to control playback using only your voice, something Amazon hopes will be compelling enough to lure people away from Spotify.
Amazon Music Unlimited links with the company's Echo smart speaker to allow you to find music just by asking. Amazon said that music has consistently been one of the most popular Echo activities since the device's launch two years ago. Music Unlimited takes the speaker's capabilities a step further.
There are voice commands to allow you to play whatever is on your mind. They range from the simple, such as "Alexa, play Sia" to the more complex, including "Alexa, play Green Day's new Song" and "Alexa, play the song that goes, 'I was doing just fine before I met you.'" Alexa's advanced natural language processing capabilities will interpret the queries and play the correct song. Because Alexa gets to know you over time, your experience will become more conversational the longer you use the assistant.
The Amazon Echo smart speaker with Amazon s Alexa digital assistant
The Amazon Echo smart speaker with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant
Amazon
If you don't have an Echo or you're not at home, you'll be able to access Music Unlimited using the Amazon Music app for PCs, Mac, the web, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire. The app has received a substantial overhaul to tie in with the launch of the new service. The interface now puts artist and album artwork, music discovery and playback front and centre.
The app has been divided into "Home," "Recommended" and "Now Playing" sections to help you find and play new music. There's support for synchronised lyrics during playback and a selection of trending content showcases curated by Amazon Music editors. Amazon Music will let you play tracks from Prime Music and Music Unlimited, a single place for your Amazon content.
Amazon Music Unlimited is not replacing Prime Music. Prime Music has a catalogue of around two million songs and is available for free to Amazon Prime members. Music Unlimited has a considerably larger song selection, although it still pales in comparison to Spotify's library of 30 million tracks.
Pricing will be $9.99 per month for non-Prime subscribers or $7.99 per month with a Prime membership. As an added incentive to Amazon Echo owners to give Music Unlimited a try, all Echo customers will be able to access an exclusive "for Echo" plan priced at $3.99 a month.
"Amazon Music Unlimited brings real value to the millions of people who are already Prime members, with a choice of subscribing for only $7.99 a month or even $79 per year," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO.
"Customers are going to love Amazon Music’s all-new app for iOS, Android and desktop. And if you want a sense of the future of voice-controlled music, go ahead and ask Alexa for a free Music Unlimited trial, and play around on your Echo. If you don’t know the name of a song but know a few lyrics, if you want to hear songs from a specific decade, or even if you’re looking for music to match your mood, just ask."
Amazon is clearly targeting Spotify and Apple Music with the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited. The company is currently unable to compete in terms of library but could attract customers to its low pricing. The service is likely to be most appealing to people who are already immersed in the Amazon ecosystem though. Prime subscribers and Alexa owners will benefit the most from Music Unlimited.
The Alexa integration also reinforces the strengths of the Amazon Echo against the recently announced Google Home. Amazon has been essentially unrivalled in the smart home speaker market since the launch of the Echo. Google is now putting up a serious competition with the Google Assistant-powered Home. It is also emphasising the ease of music playback, using YouTube and Play Music, but has not demonstrated voice commands as rich as Alexa's new capabilities.
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