Business

Amazon Music Drops HD Tier to $9.99, Shaking Up Hi-Fi Streaming Market

Amazon Music
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The price change undercuts competing high-fidelity offerings and possibly upcoming plans by Spotify and Apple Music.

Amazon's high-fidelity streaming service, Amazon Music HD, is now available to Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers at no extra cost, the company tells Billboard. Amazon Music HD previously cost $14.99 a month ($12.99 for Prime members) while Amazon Music Unlimited, its most popular service option, is $9.99 a month ($7.99 for Prime members).

The move is a first in the music industry, where high-fidelity streaming options routinely cost $19.99 a month before Amazon Music HD arrived in September 2019, forcing competitors like Deezer and Qobuz to lower the price of their high-fidelity plans to $14.99. (Tidal still selling its high-fidelity streaming tier for $19.99 a month). Now Amazon is leading the way once again, effectively cutting the price of high-fidelity music in half within two years.

“It's something we've all we've been wanting to do for a long time,” says Amazon Music vp Steve Boom. “When we launched, we already broke the mold by taking a service that had been $19.99 -- and really just for the audiophile at that price point -- and brought it down to something that was much more mass-market at $14.99.”

Amazon’s success with its HD service, which has grown 100% year-over-year, has pushed Spotify to announce a Hi-Fi tier as well, with rumors of an Apple Music Hi-Fi plan possibly also priced at $9.99 a month.

For years, the music industry was focused on using high-fidelity audio streaming as a means to raise the average revenue per user with higher-priced subscriptions. That would mean bigger payouts for rights holders and the streaming services. But with Amazon, Spotify, and Apple all getting in on the high-fidelity push, the labels have become more amenable to lowering the price of high-fidelity tiers in the hopes of increasing the overall number of subscribers across the industry.

“The other services are coming around to the fact that this is really important.” Boom says. “And that momentum in the marketplace just changed the nature of the conversations about how this content should be made accessible to everybody and how it should be licensed.”

Boom continues, “The labels have been extremely supportive of us in our efforts to trailblaze with HD audio. This is going to create more growth in the marketplace. And we're putting the focus on the quality of the sound as opposed to just the revenue.”

Amazon Music HD has more than 70 million lossless CD-quality songs in HD (16-bit / 44.1 kHz) and over 7 million “Ultra HD” songs (24-bit / 48kHz, 96 kHz, 192 kHz), which are effectively studio masters. Subscribers to Amazon Music Unlimited in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain will be able to upgrade to Amazon Music HD on both individual and family plans for free (student plans are not included and will not have HD music available). Current Amazon Music HD subscribers will now be charged $5 less a month on their future billing cycles.