Streaming

Billie Eilish Becomes a DJ As Amazon Music Rethinks Radio

Courtesy of Amazon Music

The music streaming service has launched a personalized on-demand radio feature called "DJ Mode."

Amazon Music launched a new feature called DJ Mode on Thursday (June 10), a new take on the radio stations popular on music streaming services that combines artist commentary with the platform’s most popular playlists.

DJ Mode will allow users to access on-demand, personalized versions of three of Amazon Music’s most popular existing radio stations — Rap Rotation, Country Heat, and All Hits, all of which are derived from playlists of the same name. These new DJ Mode stations will feature DJ hosts with recorded audio commentary from artists speaking about their own music and the music that influenced them. Song selection and sequencing are personalized for every user based on their listening habits, which Amazon says should offer fresh context on each listen.

Listeners will also be able to pause, rewind, skip and go back on songs and the commentary interludes, as well as thumb up and thumb down tracks, combining the feeling of traditional radio with the convenience of streaming.

Billie Eilish is the first artist to lead a DJ-Mode station, called The Billie Eilish Takeover, a limited-time station that will feature stories and commentary from Eilish about her musical influences and the creation of her upcoming sophomore album, Happier Than Ever.

Courtesy of Amazon Music

“I'm excited to launch The Billie Eilish Takeover with Amazon Music, where I will share the stories and details behind my favorite songs, my new music, as well as music from the artists who inspire me," says Eilish in a statement to Billboard.

Los Angeles-based radio personality DJ Letty will host Rap Rotation Radio in DJ Mode, Country Heat in DJ Mode will be hosted by Emmy winner and radio personality Kelly Sutton, and Amazon Music’s senior curator for pop, children’s and holiday genres Karen Wild will helm All Hits in DJ Mode. (Wild also developed the All Hits playlist for the service.).

Amazon Music says its listeners ask Alexa “hundreds of thousands of questions per day” looking for more details on the music they are listening to, and DJ Mode can answer those questions proactively for users who decide to use the feature. DJ Mode will have its own dedication section in the Amazon Music app and all stations will continue to be available without DJ Mode.

“Clearly there's this hunger for people to know more about the music they're listening to, and we saw this opportunity in the stations' environment to give the best of both worlds, the best of the things that you like about FM radio — the personality, the information that comes along with the music — and at the same time, all the best parts about streaming,” Steve Boom, vp Amazon Music tells Billboard in an interview. “We're merging the concept of a playlist and a station,” Boom says.

Amazon Music has been launching a flurry of new, innovative features as it looks to distinguish itself from the pack of music streaming services, adding in livestreaming from Twitch, in-app merchandise sales, and podcasts over the past year. Boom says DJ Mode was created in part as an expansion of X-Ray, a popular Amazon Music feature that supplies song information, trivia, and related content that made its way to the Music app last September after years of success on the Kindle and in Prime Video.

“I love streaming music, obviously it's my business,” Boom says, “But that’s not to say it can't be improved by adding some more personality and things to it than just playlists of music. We've been saying strategically that the future of music streaming services is not just about, ‘Hey, give me a playlist of songs.’ It's about getting people more deeply connected to the music, more deeply connected to the artists that they love, and turning those listeners into fans.”

“I grew up with vinyl, so you felt more connected because you had liner notes and all that kind of stuff,” Boom continues. “X-Ray and our visual apps are an attempt to take that concept into the 21st century. This is our way of taking what you get out of internet radio and FM radio in the 21st century and coming up with something totally new.” Boom says new content is produced daily for DJ Mode and Amazon Music will expand the number of DJ Mode stations throughout the year.

Amazon says DJ Mode is now available for Amazon Music subscribers in the U.S. through the Amazon Music apps on iOS, Android, and Fire TV, as well as through Alexa and Echo devices. You can get a free trial to Amazon Music here.