Another day, another tech behemoth getting into the music streaming business. Amazon.com is reportedly preparing to add a library of music to its hybrid Amazon Prime service within a few weeks, giving annual subscribers access to a limited catalog of songs. According to a Buzzfeed report, Prime’s customers will enjoy the music library beginning in June or July, along with free two-day shipping on many items in Amazon’s retail store and access to select videos on the Amazon Instant Video service.
Terms of the agreement haven’t yet come to light. Disappointed industry sources told Billboard in March that Amazon had initially lowballed labels by offering a small pool of revenue -- $25 million for all the majors, and just $5 million for all independent labels collectively. "Buzzfeed reported that the Prime service will include music from major labels Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group as well as several indies, but did not say whether Universal Music Group has agreed to license content."
Billboard reached out to Amazon for comment, but had not yet heard back at press time.
If the Buzzfeed report is accurate, Prime’s music component will more resemble its counterpart video service than the extensive libraries offered by streaming music providers such as Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, and Apple’s newly acquired Beats Music, some of which exceed 20 million songs. The Amazon offering won’t include new releases from the past six months, and it’s not clear how complete the older catalog will be.
Amazon Prime subscribers currently have unlimited access to a substantial selection of films and TV series, but it’s only a relatively small slice of Amazon’s broader on-demand Instant Video library, for which it charges 48-hour rental fees. For example, among writer/director John Hughes’ films, Prime subscribers can currently stream "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" and "Pretty In Pink" anytime, but would have to pay a $2.99 fee to view "The Breakfast Club", "Weird Science", "Sixteen Candles" or a few others. Like Netflix, Amazon Prime rotates videos in and out of its unlimited-access tier.
Amazon claimed that it had “tens of millions” of Prime subscribers in a December statement, suggesting that it has at least 20 million. The company raised the price of Prime from $79 to $99 annually in March, not long before a leaked contract indicated that it was trying to license major-label content for a service it could bundle with Prime.
News of Amazon’s upcoming service arrives just one day after Apple finally announced its $3 billion agreement to acquire Beats Music, along with related headphone and speaker vendor Beats Electronics. A third tech heavyweight, Google, already operates an on-demand streaming service through its Google Play store, but is believed to be slowly readying a new competitor that will carry the YouTube brand.