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A month after launch, Amazon Music Unlimited expands to the UK

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Amazon’s brand new on-demand, streaming music service, Amazon Music Unlimited, has now taken flight across the ocean. After being launched just last month in the U.S. all ready to do battle with Apple Music, Spotify, Google, and others, it is now live in the UK, and as of later today, will also be live in Germany and Austria. The service offers an extensive 40 million songs to its users. While Prime members pay £7.99 per month or £79 per year, non-Prime members pay £9.99 per month. Those buying the service to use only on Amazon’s Echo home speaker/interactive voice hub are charged a discount of £3.99 per month.

Amazon has not revealed take-up numbers for the US service to date. Steve Boom, VP Amazon Music, in a statement, said,

We’ve been thrilled with customer reaction to the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited in the U.S. last month and we’re excited to quickly bring the service to customers in the UK.

Along with its perks also comes a certain limitation. Getting a discount for the Amazon Music Unlimited service comes only if you are a member of Amazon’s loyalty program, Prime. This is just another addition to the perks of Prime, others being free shipping, video streaming and food delivery, all for a monthly payment. Consumers in the UK pay £5.99 per month or £79 per year in the UK for Prime membership.

While a lot of Echo owners who are already subscribers to Spotify or Pandora might have added a skill to use those services over the Amazon device, Amazon has made its own music service much more tightly integrated.

What it means

While Amazon has been slow to catch up by only launching this service now — Music Unlimited being its second recent attempt to bring in users with a streaming music service. What it also brings to the table is, the extra functionality which might get more people to switch or at least try a streaming service (more specifically, theirs) out for the first time. To begin listening, all you do is ask the voice response system, Alexa, “Alexa, start my Amazon Music Unlimited free trial.” without the need to activate a skill.

Spotify users who have found it difficult to navigate Spotify with Alexa and the Echo have the benefit of more voice features offered by Amazon. These include giving Alexa a line from a song to find it; giving it the name of an artist to create a playlist; asking for the latest track from a specific musician; asking for music from a particular time period; music by moods; and personalised playlists based on what you have listened to before, by just asking Alexa to “play music.”

It is unclear whether Amazon will let competing music providers the ability to “teach” Alexa similar functionality, or if they even will want to. For now, it’s a handy, functional skill set that highlights some of the limitations of the other services, at least when used with Amazon’s own devices.

It also, conversely, means that for those who are not Prime members or Echo owners, there is not much to differentiate the service from the others in the mix, either by features or price. In that sense, it seems like the hope for Amazon is that the tandem interests of discount, interesting integrations with a new connected home product, and music service will potentially drive more users to all of its products. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, said in a statement,

If you want a sense of the future of voice-controlled music, go ahead and ask Alexa for a free Amazon 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. Our U.S. customers love Amazon Music Unlimited on Echo, and we think our UK customers will too.

While Apple, Spotify and Google are better established on the streaming stage, Amazon has a distinct advantage over its rivals with its Echo hardware. The cheap Echo-exclusive plan could lure lots of new users to the platform, allowing the company to upsell its services in the future.

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