Amazon, as the e-commerce colossus is wont to do, released vague figures Monday about one of its new ventures -- the Prime Music streaming service -- and the stats tell us pretty much what you'd expect.
Amazon said that in the week following the introduction of Prime Music, which launched June 12 as a music arm to its $99-a-year Prime program, members streamed tens of millions of songs accounting for millions of hours of music. Members also added more than a million playlists -- curated compilations of about 20 to 50 songs -- to their music libraries.
That doesn't mean much, but here's what we can deduce: Some people who were already paying for Prime tried out the new feature, and the usage unsurprisingly pales to the biggest music streamer out there, Pandora -- the best benchmark available for comparison. Surprise!
Amazon Prime Music is an on-demand subscription service similar to market leader Spotify and Beats Music, the streaming service that Apple has agreed to buy as part of its $3 billion acquisition of headphones maker Beats Electronics. Prime Music is more limited than those competitors: It has a catalog of more than 1 million songs compared to the 20 million at Spotify and Beats, and Amazon's agreements with labels sometimes prevent Prime Music from getting tracks right when they're released.
It differs from Pandora, which operates a radio-like offering supported by ads, allowing anyone to listen to Pandora in the US and a few other countries, unlike subscription-only Prime Music. While Pandora has the biggest audience of any online music service on the Internet, its catalog size is in the Prime Music ballpark -- but you can never pick the precise song you want to hear. Prime Music allows you to stream whatever song you like, so long as Prime has it.
Apples-to-apples comparisons between Amazon's figures and stats from rivals are difficult because, well, Amazon provided vague numbers, and because many in the streaming-music space tend to keep listening stats under wraps. The most transparent of the music streamers is publicly traded Pandora. And it comes as no surprise that comparisons between Pandora and the new, limited-catalog Amazon Prime Music depict a giant and a fledgling.
Last month, Pandora streamed 1.73 billion hours of music. That breaks down, on average, to about 391 million hours in a one-week span last month. Amazon said its members streamed millions of hours of music, which in Amazon code means probably less than 10 million hours.
Though Amazon and Pandora have a similar catalog size, Pandora benefits from a much bigger pool of users. Pandora had 77 million active listeners last month, and it had 250 million registered users as of the end of March. Amazon has previously described its Prime program as having "tens of millions" of members, though most use it primarily for the best-known feature, free two-day shipping on qualifying Amazon purchases.
And don't forget, new streaming services can lose momentum once the shine of the new begins to wear off. Apple was quick to tout the 11 milllion users it generated in five days for its iTunes Radio competitor to Pandora, which was launched as part of its revamped iOS in September. But it didn't sustain the lightning pace: Less than six months later, iTunes Radio users still fell short of not only Pandora by a long shot but also iHeartRadio, the online arm of terrestrial radio giant Clear Channel, according to Statista.
For now with Prime Music, we must wait until Amazon upgrades the usage cryptography for it. Bets when we'll start hearing about "tens of millions of hours," anyone?