Amazon to launch streaming-music service for Prime?

Quickly after Apple's deal to buy a music-streaming service, a report says Amazon will launch a similar offering but one lacking new releases.

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Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos Amazon

Amazon plans to launch a streaming-music service in June or July similar to the one Apple just agreed to purchase through its Beats deal, though the e-commerce company's catalog would be limited, according to a Buzzfeed report on Thursday.

A message to Amazon seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

The article, citing unnamed people in the music industry familiar with the plans, said the offering wouldn't have new music releases -- songs would be about six months old at their freshest-- and it would be part of Amazon's existing $99-a-year Prime membership program, which includes free second-day shipping on some Amazon purchases and a Netflix-like streaming video service.

By adding a music service to Prime that is fundamentally more restricted than its major rival, Amazon is unlikely to lure in totally new customers attracted solely to a streaming product. However, following Amazon's recent price increase to Prime from $79, the addition of streaming music will be a bonus for people who are already members, and it will turn Prime into a more well-rounded collection of services.

The streaming-music category is still relatively unfamiliar to mainstream consumers but is growing rapidly -- and quickly becoming more competitive. Sweden-based Spotify as well as a host of smaller startups vie with similar offerings by tech giants like Google's Play Music All Access and soon-to-be Apple's Beats Music.

Yet services like these often generate their greatest spikes in attention by brokering exclusives or early releases for their platforms. Beyonce, for example, released her latest album exclusively through iTunes, dropping 14 tracks and 17 videos without any prerelease hype, leaks, or reviews -- and garnering a huge amount of press for her project and for Apple's music store in the process. Amazon will be at a disadvantage to competitors if the catalog restrictions on new content extend to such deals, but exclusive arrangements are typically negotiated in one-off pacts unrelated to broader licensing agreements.

With subscription-music services growing rapidly and digital downloads showing their first sales decline last year, music labels have been accommodating to new services seeking to license content to stream. A deal that limits streaming access to older tracks -- thus insulating physical and digital sales when demand is highest -- was likely an easy pitch to make to labels.

The article said that Amazon has reached license deals with Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, two of the big three music labels, as well as several independent ones. The status of Universal Music Group, the world's biggest recorded-music company by revenue, wasn't confirmed.

 

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