Business

Amazon launches streaming music service, but not in Canada

Amazon has launched a streaming music service, but similar to its streaming video services it's not available in Canada yet.

Service will cost $10 US a month for non-Prime members, but cheaper as an add-on

Owners of an Echo speaker can add the music service for $4 a month, Amazon says. (YouTube)

Amazon has launched a streaming music service, but similar to its streaming video services it's not available in Canada yet.

Starting today, Amazon Music Unlimited will be available to customers in the U.S., bringing its catalog of  "tens of millions of songs" for $9.99 US a month. The price drops to $7.99 for people who are members of Amazon Prime, the company's premium service that offers faster delivery times and a growing suite of perks.

Owners of an Amazon Echo smart speaker, meanwhile, can get the service for just $4 a month. Again, that offer doesn't include Canadians, who are free to pay for Prime membership but don't get the video and music streaming service that it has come to be synonymous with in the U.S.

Amazon did not reply to a request for comment from CBC News as to if and when the service might be available to Canadians. The company said in a press release it plans to roll out the service in the U.K., Germany and Austria later this year.

Growing business

The launch comes amid a sea change in the music industry, the streaming side of which is growing quickly. According to data from U.S. ratings firm Nielsen, more than half of people who subscribe to a streaming service do so for an audio service such as Spotify or Rdio— not video, such as Netflix or CraveTV.

Digital downloading is down by almost a quarter, while streaming is up 59 per cent this year compared to last, Nielsen says.

Many streaming services offer similar catalogs of music, which means they are trying to differentiate themselves based on other things, such as ease of use and the ability to work on multiple devices.

"There is definitely room to grow the pie simply because more and more music consumers are choosing this way of accessing their music," eMarketer analyst Paul Verna said.

When paired with Amazon's virtual assistant service Alexa, an Echo speaker has voice control and gives the user the ability to search for songs or artists, or even play songs by saying a fragment of the lyrics.

Amazon is using services such as the new Music Unlimited business both as revenue generators but also as a way to get people to sign up for Prime, which might compel them to buy more online. "With Alexa and Echo, Amazon can create a loyal base of users (including its Prime members) who will spend more on its e-commerce website," research firm Trefis said of the company in a recent note.

Despite the low price for Echo-only subscriptions, Amazon and the labels are likely betting that consumers will be motivated to upgrade so they can listen on more devices, said Ted Cohen, managing partner of TAG Strategic.

"At a certain point you'll get frustrated and go, 'Oh, what the heck,'" he said.

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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