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While Amazon may have launched an on-demand streaming music service, the company isn’t giving up on digital download sales or the “business” part of music, VP of digital music Steve Boom said in an interview with VentureBeat yesterday.

Amazon’s Prime Music gives those who sign up for the company’s $100 annual Prime Membership access to a library of over 90,000 albums. The service is also ad-free, and doesn’t place any restrictions on when or how you listen to that music — meaning you can play music on any supported device or the web. There’s even a feature that lets you download music for offline listening.

“With Prime Music, we’re growing the ‘pie’ for digital music overall,” Boom said.”The goal we have when adding new services to Prime [membership] comes down to two things. We want existing Prime members to have deeper and longer relationships with Amazon. But we also try to look at services that have universal appeal and are used frequently if not daily. And music is an obvious service that fits into that description.”

A more cohesive music strategy

The biggest selling point for an Amazon-branded on-demand music service is definitely that it adds another perk to being a Prime member, but that alone isn’t reason enough.

“It [Prime Music] very much is intended to work very tightly with the rest of our music services,” Boom told me.

In terms of other music services, Amazon already offers quite a bit. The company has a music locker service that invites customers to upload all their existing digital music files that can then be accessed anywhere from the cloud. There’s the AutoRip program, which offers a complimentary digital version of any physical album purchased through the Amazon retail store. And of course Amazon still sells digital downloads.

“Especially for existing Amazon music customers, with the services available from Prime Music and using what we know about a their purchasing habits, we can really guide them in building out their digital music library,” Boom said.

One example he gave me was for people who may only have one song from a particular album, but now have access to the entire album. Or perhaps you have a live track from a band that you uploaded to Amazon’s cloud and are now being recommended to purchase an entire live concert album you didn’t know about.

Making Amazon a music hub

On top of what it can offer to music customers, Boom explained that Prime Music will also help push the perception of Amazon as a place people associate with music just as much as they do with book sales.

At first glance, this may seem like a difficult task because Prime Music’s library is far smaller than competing services, and it doesn’t have a lot of newly released music. Yet, not everyone cares about new music or a huge library of songs — especially if it cost $10 per month. Prime Music, however, should be very appealing for existing Prime members and those who are unwilling to fork over a monthly fee for just music.

Those people, however, are willing to spend money elsewhere — and that, Boom explained, is where there’s a big opportunity for Amazon.

“We were never trying to build a look-alike service,” Boom said, referencing competing services like Spotify, among others. “Not everyone buys music, some just want to listen to it. That’s why we’ve launched with… [over a thousand] playlists.”

Amazon is also taking a page from Beats Music’s book by hiring on many music enthusiasts to build curated playlists, which I’m assuming will consist of both free Prime tracks and those you’ll need to pay for to listen to. (Boom declined to disclose exactly how many people were working on building playlists.) If you like the majority of songs on that playlists, it might entice you to spend an extra few bucks to grab the other tracks, too.

Prime Music’s timing (& that June 18 Amazon event)

The proximity of Prime Music’s launch is curiously close to Amazon’s June 18 event (which many speculate will be when the company debuts its own smartphone), Boom told me it doesn’t have anything to do with it. The Prime Music launch also wasn’t prompted by Apple’s purchase of Beats Music, either.

“The service launched because we felt it was ready,” Boom said. That meant launching it before Amazon reached a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, one of the three major music companies.

“Talks with Universal are ongoing, and they’ve been a great partner to us,” he said, adding that new music will be continuously added to the service over time.

Whether Amazon’s digital music ambitions translate to a successful strategy remains to be seen. But, if the company does debut a new 3D smartphone next week, it’ll certainly help give Prime Music a push in the right direction.


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