Amazon launches Prime Music and it's sort of OK

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Source: Prime Music

Yesterday Amazon launched Prime Music, yet another entry into the crowded subscription based streaming music space. Frankly it's taking a bit of a beating in the technology press due to its relatively small library ("over a million songs" compared to Spotify with its "over 20 million songs"), the fact that recent songs aren't included, and because Amazon hasn't reached an agreement with Universal so none of its songs are included.

Without trivializing these valid concerns, I think some of these pundits are missing the point. You don't pay $5 or $10/month for Prime Music; it's part of the larger $99 per year Amazon Prime service that includes Prime Video, the Kindle Lending Library and free 2-day shipping on purchases from Amazon. How much you're paying for Prime Music depends on how much use you get out of the other Prime services. If you're already a Prime money and feel like you're getting your money's worth, Prime Music is effectively free.

So let's look at it as a value-add. If you're not a Prime member there are many better streaming options for $100/year! Hopefully over time Amazon will expand the service and make it a better competitor to Google Music, Beats Music, Rdio, Spotify and others.

Aside from the limitations of its library, I did find some other quirkiness that I think Amazon needs to work on. For one thing, here is the listing for Prime Music. Now you'd think you could just start listening, right? No. If you try to listen to music from this page you just get samples. You have to first use the Add to Library function (which was timing out as often as it worked when I was testing yesterday) then open the cloud player to listen to it. It's a pretty clunky system.

Amazon offers a desktop app but it seems hopelessly broken to me, at least in terms of Prime Music. Links to Prime Music features on it did nothing; maybe they're still working on it. Amazon is also offering apps for iOS, Android, Kindle, Sonos and Roku.

I also missed the ability to Like/Dislike songs and get recommendations based on my history of doing so. When you're listening to a song Amazon does offer suggestions (of the "Customers who bought this song also bought..." variety) based on that song, so that's something at least (and you can click on "Not Interested" to make a recommendation go away.

Overall I'm giving Prime Music a rating of "meh." If you're a Prime Member and don't have an alternative music streaming subscription then definitely check it out. Otherwise I doubt there's enough here to pull you away from what you're already using, and Prime Music alone is definitely NOT worth the annual fee for Amazon Prime.

But you know, Prime Video was pretty "meh" not so long ago and Amazon has built it into a service that is quite good. Maybe they can do the same thing here.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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