Amazon Prime Music streaming service throws a hat in the ring with Spotify and Apple

On the heels of adding a catalog of HBO shows to its instant video collection, Amazon amped up the perks of its Prime membership by launching Prime Music, a music streaming service. According to Amazon, subscribers to this $99-a-year Prime service have access to over a million songs. Amazon hopes the music service will bolster subscriptions to its Prime service, which also includes video streaming and free two-day shipping.

Prime Music places an emphasis on music curation by suggesting playlists to listeners and allowing users to compile their own across the thousands of available albums. But Amazon has yet to strike a deal with Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music corporation. Subscribers who would like to listen to prominent artists including Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Elton John need to look elsewhere, at least for now. And it is unclear whether a deal will ever be reached.

The absence of this deal highlights ongoing disagreements between Amazon and media publishers, who argue that Amazon exploits its vast customer base to negotiate better terms for itself.

For more tips and reviews, check our streaming media players & services buying guide and Ratings.

Although it's been a long-time retailer of music, this is Amazon’s first foray into streaming music. Tapping into Amazon Prime's growing pool of more than 20 million subscribers, Prime Music has the potential to compete with streaming music companies such as Spotify and Pandora, as well as Apple, which recently acquired the deluxe headphones maker Beats Electronics, it says, for Beats’ music-streaming service.

As competition to draw customers to company-specific ecosystems such as iTunes and Google Play store grows fiercer, Prime Music is the latest step in making Amazon a one-stop marketplace for online shoppers.

—Karim Lahlou

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.