When Amazon rolled out a standalone music-streaming service in 2016, the music business largely dismissed it as yet another Spotify clone, entering far too late in the game. But the e-commerce company’s efforts in music are quietly shaping up to be major drivers in the industry.
Days after Amazon enlisted Taylor Swift, SZA and Dua Lipa for a high-profile concert trumping its annual Prime Day sale, the Financial Times is reporting that the number of people subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited — which complements Amazon’s more limited Prime Music offering — has grown 70 percent in the last year. While Spotify dominates the market in pure subscriber count, its rate of growth in subscriptions lags behind at just 25 percent. Midia Research music analyst Mark Mulligan noted to the FT that Amazon Music is the “dark horse” of streaming services and that “people don’t pay as much attention to it [as to Apple and Spotify], but it’s been hugely effective.”
The reason for Amazon Music’s furious growth? It doesn’t go after the obvious demographic of young music fans, many of whom are already loyal to their Spotify and Apple Music logins. Instead, it’s been targeting older consumers, especially those who fall in the space between the record-store generation and the streaming youngsters. According to Midia, only five percent of Spotify’s customers are 55 or older, compared to 14 percent of Amazon Music customers.
Amazon understands the value in catering to the middle-of-the-road consumers — the ones who stream music only casually, the people who care foremost about being able to use their smart speakers as radios — and has positioned its two music-streaming services as utilities rather than innovations. The cost of a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited also falls from the normal $10 a month to $8 a month for Prime members and just $4 a month for people who only listen via Echo devices, making it easily the most convenient and affordable option. (Amazon Prime boasts over 100 million customers in the U.S. alone.)
While competitors are scrambling to differentiate themselves with bold new features or deeper interactivity, Amazon executives have admitted outright that Amazon Music, both in its Prime and Unlimited versions, is simply a “mainstream music-streaming service for the mainstream music fan.” It’s no grand vision, but it works — and very well, at that.