Prime Music is a free benefit for legions of Amazon Prime members. It makes Prime an even better deal than it already was. But is it so good that you can give up your other music services altogether? Here's a brief investigation based on a couple of hours of use.
When I learned the details of Prime Music, I instantly knew that the service's success or downfall would hinge on whether or not it can compete with my Spotify subscription, especially given that Amazon only managed to lock down two of the three major labels. Over a million songs is a lot of songs—but it's not over 20 million songs. If I still need another subscription, it doesn't really matter how good Amazon Prime is, right?
Well, the bad news is that it doesn't take very long to find obvious stuff that's not available:
- Kendrick Lamar
- Katy Perry
- Kanye West
- Matador Records (entire catalog)
- Sub Pop Records (entire catalog)
- Epitaph Records (entire catalog)
- The Rolling Stones
- Elliott Smith
And you could go on and on and on. Clearly, failing to bag up that UMG blanket license is responsible for many of these omissions. Still, much of this stuff is very popular and obvious.
Even compared to the heavily curated and meticulously designed discovery experiences offered by products like Beats Music and Spotify, Prime is pretty streamlined.
Across web, desktop, and the mobile applications, Prime Music is focused around a central library, which includes both stuff you've added from Prime and other tunes you've purchased. Adding songs and albums that are on Prime is one-click simple across platforms. The dark design of all the Prime Music apps is attractive, and the icons across the platform are really good looking, and easy to follow. In particular, the "Prime Blue" really pops on the dark background making finding the stuff you can get for free.
Amazon makes adding and downloading whole collections from artists you like very easy, and its suggestions based on what you're listening to are a logical. But the curated playlists at launch will make you roll your eyes.
Something people who use other services might miss is any semblance of a built-in social component besides simply pushing your playback to Facebook. You've seen people do that before. It's very annoying! There's no built-in way to share what you're listening to or learn from what others are jamming to, which is one of my favorite parts of competing services.
Prime Music is never going to replace another music service if you really like music and remotely care about selection and completeness. That said, Amazon's design and discovery are pretty slick making getting the most out of a limited catalog very easy. But, you know, don't cancel your Spotify.