The biggest music subscription service on the planet has not been licensed by the biggest music company on the planet.
Amazon Prime Music, which officially launched in the UK this week, has a bigger paying customer base than Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and Apple Music combined.
That’s certainly not to say that the service has more active users: it definitely doesn’t, pinning its total listeners at “millions” earlier this year.
And it certainly doesn’t have a bigger catalogue than its competitors – in these terms, it lags far behind the rest of the streaming pack.
But there are an estimated 40-50m subscribers to Amazon Prime worldwide, with 30m-40m in the United States alone.
All of them, where available, automatically become Prime Music subscribers.
With Prime Music now available in the US and the UK, the number of people effectively paying for the service is bigger than even Spotify’s hard-won 20m+ subscriber base.
This ably demonstrates the power of cross-media subscriptions, which are set to become a significant part the future of music streaming offerings.
We already have plenty of telco-music subscription bundles, of course – combining mobile phone billing with music subs – but even the biggest can’t come close to Amazon Prime in terms of scale.
Subscribers are drawn to Amazon Prime by its multiple benefits – whether that’s free delivery from Amazon’s main store, unlimited photo storage in the cloud, e-book rentals or Amazon Prime Video, its Netflix rival.
“The music business desperately wants to bring a mainstream audience to streaming. Amazon is bringing streaming to a mainstream audience.”
Amazon Prime Music offers its subscribers a limited catalogue of just one million songs, predominantly picked from the catalogues of Warner and Sony.
A year after it arrived in the US market, there’s still nothing from the vaults of Universal on the platform; UMG clearly doesn’t believe that music’s slice of Prime’s £79-per-year pricetag justifies a licence.
And yes, that includes the works of Taylor Swift.
There also don’t appear to be any flagship albums from the independent sector, suggesting the bigger indies such as Beggars Group haven’t signed a license.
And yes, that includes Adele.
(There is a question mark here over publishing: how has Amazon managed to clear so much music from so many writers and their publishers if UMG and independent labels have blackballed it?)
Regardless, will people be attracted to Prime by a music service that carries a catalogue just 1/30th of the size of Spotify’s? Even if that catalogue includes Sony and Warner albums from the likes of One Direction, Royal Blood, George Ezra, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and David Bowie – plus ‘hundreds of hand-built Prime playlists’?
The jury’s out.
The uncomfortable news for the music biz? It probably doesn’t matter.
Who, Amazon is asking mainstream customers, really needs all the music in the world?
After all, Netflix – and Amazon Prime Video – hasn’t needed to license every single movie ever made to revolutionise home entertainment.
That arguably transforms Amazon Prime Music from a Spotify competitor into something else entirely.
The music business desperately wants to bring a mainstream audience to streaming. Amazon is bringing streaming to a mainstream audience.
This is all about added value, and convenience, for Amazon’s existing customer base… which is pretty much everyone with a working internet.
Prime’s goal is to become a one-stop subscription solution for as much of your life as possible – and, so far, its numbers suggest it’s succeeding.
Don’t be surprised, for instance, to see a sports package added to Prime in the future: an even more mainstream proposition.
(Rumours also suggest that Apple will be next to make a Prime-esque move: combining its Apple TV offering – and its HBO compatibility – with Apple Music in a single subscription price.)
Additionally, it’s interesting that Amazon refers to those who pay for Prime not as ‘subscribers’ but as ‘members’ – which sounds instantly less money-grabbing and more exclusive.
“UK customers loved it when we added Prime Instant Video and unlimited photo storage into Prime last year, on top of Unlimited One-Day Delivery on millions of items and access to over 800,000 Kindle titles to borrow,” said Christopher North, Managing Director at Amazon UK.
“We said then that we were just getting started, and today we’re introducing Prime Music—more than a million songs from bestselling artists, plus hundreds of Prime Playlists hand-built by our team of music experts—all at no additional cost.
“Prime Music is the latest great addition for our UK Prime members and we think they’re going to love it.”Music Business Worldwide