Apple Music faces fresh competition from Amazon’s new free option

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The Amazon Echo.
Your Amazon Echo can serenade you without a subscription, if you’re willing to endure ads.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Amazon just launched a free streaming music service for its smart speakers. This is further competition for Apple Music and Spotify, who are battling it out in the paid music subscription business.

This service could bring additional pressure for a free Apple Music option.

Ad-supported Amazon Music

“Beginning today, customers in the U.S. who do not yet have a Prime membership or a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited will now be able to listen to an ad-supported selection of top playlists and stations for free with Amazon Music on compatible Alexa-enabled devices,” Amazon revealed.

Amazon Prime subscrptions include access to a streaming service with about 2 million songs. Starting today, the online behemoth is making this available to anyone with an Amazon Echo smart speaker as long as they are wiling to sit through advertisements between the songs.

Listeners can choose the genre of music, but can’t create specific playlists. Doing that requires Amazon Music Unlimited, a separate service which offers about 50 million songs for $3.99 a month.

Apple Music vs. advertising

Apple doesn’t have an ad-supposed equivalent to Amazon Music because the iPhone maker has taken a strong pro-privacy stand. Any company advertising on Apple Music would surely want demographic details about subscribers so ads can be targeted to them, but that’s not something Apple is willing to do.

While a benefit to users, that puts Apple at a disadvantage. There are 50 million Apple Music subscribers globally, but Spotify has 207 million customers, most on its ad-supported service.

Amazon is vague about how many are signed up for its streaming music services. It will only say the total is tens of millions, and it’s doubled in the last 6 months.