Amazon Music tells Billboard it has “tens of millions” of paid customers, with Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions having more than doubled in the past six months, according to data provided by the company. Amazon, the third-largest streaming service behind Spotify and Apple Music, did not clarify the exact number of paid customers it has.
But in an interview with Billboard, Amazon Music vp Steve Boom says that growth is down to two main factors: the large — and expanding — number of people who subscribe to Amazon Prime, and the growth and popularity of smart- and voice-activated speakers, with Amazon’s Echo leading the way.
“There’s been a lot written about streaming and about smart speakers, but [articles] still talk about it as if this is some future state,” Boom says about the opportunities with smart speakers. “We know better than that — it’s actually happening right now. We wouldn’t have grown to this scale if it hadn’t been happening already.”
Specifically, Boom says that the growth in the adoption of smart speakers has opened up the home and unlocked a new, untapped demographic of streamers, which is where Amazon has seen most of its new paid subscribers come from. That includes both older listeners who are traditionally slower to adopt new technologies, and country-music listeners, another genre that has been slower to make the switch to streaming. According to the company, streams of country songs on Amazon Music are 2.5 times more than the industry average.
“Our goal has been to expand the premium streaming market segment, not to run in a horse race with the other players each going after the same demographic,” Boom says. “The technology itself is so simple that we don’t just rely on those people who I would say are early tech adopters, which has been where a lot of growth in music streaming has been because it’s been wrapped up inside of a smartphone. Not everybody wants to listen to music on a smartphone, it turns out.”
The Echo’s voice-first approach, Boom says, is another way the company has been able to grow so quickly, for a simple reason: it’s easy to use, without a tech tutorial required. In the United States, more than half of Amazon Music users have used the Echo’s voice functionality, with the number of hours listeners spent listening to music via voice-enabled devices having doubled compared to the past year in the U.S., and more than doubled globally compared to last year.
“We find that for customers, especially by just using your voice, it’s both liberating, because you’re not constrained by what’s in front of you, but it can also be daunting because you’re not quite sure what to say sometimes,” he says. “So we’ve learned that we need to consistently make it easier for customers to get to music, and we’ve launched a lot of different features to support that. For us, it’s always about being on the cutting edge of what a voice-forward music service is meant to be.”
Amazon’s streaming music offerings are split among two different services, with a variety of different payment tiers attached depending on what each customer prioritizes. The first to launch was Prime Music in June 2014, free for Amazon Prime subscribers, which gives listeners access to a catalog of 2 million songs as well as various playlists and radio stations. The second, Amazon Music Unlimited, launched in October 2016 as a full-service subscription streaming service with a full catalog of music, which runs $9.99/month; $7.99/month (or $79/year) for Prime subscribers; or $3.99/month for those who want to use the service specifically on their Echo speaker. With family plans at $14.99 and student plans at $4.99, Amazon’s options are a way to have its music services appeal to a wide variety of demographics, beyond the typically-older Amazon customer.
“From day one, when we started talking to the record labels about Amazon Music Unlimited, for us it was all about, there’s a ton of growth left in premium streaming that’s not being tapped into, and we think between our technology as well as our customer base that we have an ability to tap into that,” Boom adds. “We have a lot of evidence that the customers that we’re bringing into our ecosystem are either new to streaming in the first place, or new to premium streaming. It’s still day one when it comes to what it means to control a music service and have access to a massive catalog and everything you want to do and control it only with your voice.”