Entertainment & Arts

Amazon launches music streaming service in the UK

Calvin Harris, Paloma Faith, Mark Ronson Image copyright Reuters / AP
Image caption Amazon says Calvin Harris, Paloma Faith and Mark Ronson are among the most popular artists in the UK

Amazon has entered the UK streaming market with the launch of Prime Music, a new service available to Amazon Prime customers as part of their annual £79 subscription.

Prime Music will provide access to more than one million songs and about 500 specially created playlists.

Amazon's answer to Spotify, Deezer and Google Play follows the launch of Apple Music and Jay-Z's Tidal this year.

However, there are some big holes in the Amazon Prime catalogue.

The likes of Amy Winehouse, Abba, Katy Perry, Kanye West and Eminem - all part of the Universal Music Group - are unavailable at launch.

Universal's artists were also unavailable in the US version of Amazon's service when it launched last June. At the time, The New York Times suggested the record company, which accounts for about a third of the global music market, was holding out in a dispute over royalty payments.

Amazon's library of one million songs is not on par with Apple or Spotify, which each boast more than 30 million tracks. However, Prime Music customers will also have access to the CDs or MP3s they have bought at Amazon's store - including those on the Universal label.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Sheeran is the UK's most streamed artist of the year so far

Music streaming in the UK has almost doubled over the last 12 months.

Last week, figures from The Official Charts Company revealed the number of streams had passed the 500 million a week for the first time, with Ed Sheeran the most-streamed artist of the year so far.

"Consuming music is evolving and we want to maintain pace with that evolution," Paul Firth, head of music for Amazon UK, told the BBC - adding that they wanted to take music streaming "to the masses".

"What has happened in the last few weeks is that knowledge amongst the British public of music streaming services has increased," he continued, referencing last month's Apple Music launch.

Firth said Amazon was focused on their own customers rather than what their "competitors are doing", but added: "For many people £120 a year is a lot of money to spend on music."

Apple Music is currently available for a free three-month trial, before the £9.99 or £14.99 family subscriptions kick in, while services such as Spotify offer a £9.99 subscription or a free service that includes advertisements.

Prime customers currently pay £79 a year for a range of services including on demand video streaming, free next-day delivery from Amazon's online store and a Kindle lending library.

Amazon said the US launch of Prime Music last year had been "incredibly successful".

"If you were to take a lot of the other better-known streaming services out there like rdio, Rhapsody, Deezer, Tidal and Google Play All Access, we have more active users in any given month than all those ones have combined," said Steve Bernstein, director of Amazon Digital Music EU.

"We don't know how Apple Music will fit into everything, but in the last six months we've already seen our number of active users grow by over 100% on a monthly basis, also on a weekly and daily basis as well."

Image copyright Amazon Prime Music
Image caption Amazon says the service has access to more than 1 million songs at launch

Amazon said it had created the UK service "from the ground up", based on "what we think British music fans want."

Patrick Clifton who runs Amazon Digital Music in the UK said the service had combined "fifteen years of Amazon sales data" with the specialist knowledge of a team of "musical experts", including a "champion hip-hop DJ", music journalists and bloggers and record labels.

Following Taylor Swift's recent public battle with Apple Music over how much artists are paid for streaming services, her music is now available exclusively on Apple.

Songs like Shake It Off and I Knew You Were Trouble will not appear on Prime Music unless you have already bought her albums on Amazon, in which case the digital files will automatically appear in your library.

"There's a lot of big artists who aren't on streaming at all and so we won't have those either," said Firth.

He said Amazon has struck deals with a range of major and indie record labels, but would not broach the controversial subject of royalty payments.

"Our deals are with the rights holders and the publishers, so we can't comment on what they pay artists," he said.

However, Bernstein said the company was actually "expanding the pie" by engaging more customers with music, adding: "We're creating a new base of fans and a new royalty stream for rights holders and artists."

Subscribers will access Prime Music through the Amazon Music app, or the Amazon website.

They will be able to browse playlists according to genre or activity, ranging from "background beats for work" to "acoustic hangover cure" or "pumping running tracks", as well as getting suggestions from the "recommendation engine" based on what they have already listened to.

Firth added: "The only thing we can say with certainty is that we're going to see the way people to listen to music change.

"Being the one place where you can make all those choices in the same place, you can buy CDs and vinyl, you can buy downloads or you can stream - I think that's the best place to be right now."

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