New Delhi: Online retailer Amazon India launched Amazon Prime Music, an ad-free music streaming service, exclusively for Prime members at no additional cost on Wednesday. The service comes to India nearly four years after its international launch in June 2014 and includes, in Amazon’s own words, ‘tens of millions of songs’ across major international and Indian labels in over 10 languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and more. Besides offering unlimited offline downloads, the service will provide voice control on Alexa, a finely tuned automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding engine. Amazon Prime Music will be available on Android and iOS mobile phone apps, desktop app and web player, Amazon Fire TV sticks and Amazon Echo devices.
In November, Amazon increased the subscription price for Prime to Rs999 a year from Rs499. The company launched Prime in July 2016 at an initial discount of 50% from its price of Rs999.
“Our vision for this service is that we have no feature restrictions for customers. As we roll it out internationally, our goal is to make it really simple and easy for customers to listen to the music they want to and provide a lot of personalization tools for them to experiment with new music,” said Sean McMullan, director, international expansion, Amazon Music. The service is currently available in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany and Amazon has drawn lessons from these markets to bring to India. “With this launch, we think we’re going to make music streaming easier and more fun than ever before,” McMullan said.
Clearly, the defining feature of the streaming service is the Alexa voice control option- while other services allow users to do usual things like play or skip songs, this will bring in an unprecedented amount of interactivity, Amazon believes, especially based on the success of the voice control feature in other countries.
“We’re bringing a truly localized variant of a global service,” said Sahas Malhotra, director, Amazon Music India referring to the user’s option to select a language as soon as he/she gets on to the platform. In India, Amazon’s research has shown, people typically listen to music in two or three languages. “So in the entire browsing experiences, those languages get prioritized. Obviously we honour what you want but we also show you other things,” he said.
The Prime Music library includes songs from Amazon’s global stations, besides content emerging from tie-ups with Indian labels like T-Series, Tips, Venus, Zee Music Company, Saregama, and regional players. A team of editorial experts have created playlists and stations to cater to diverse moods, genres, eras and artistes to come up with customized offerings ranging from fresh hip-hop to fresh Punjabi.
To be sure, Prime Music in India will face competition from other music streaming firms such as Gaana, Saavn and Wynk complementing curated content with originals.
Gaana raised $115 million from Chinese Internet investment company Tencent Holdings Ltd and Times Internet Ltd on Tuesday.
According to a 2017 report in Medianama, Gaana boasted of 50 million app downloads as of December 2016 and Saavn had 20 million active users. According to the FICCI-KPMG Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2017, streaming audio contributed 10% to the total mobile Internet usage in India. The year 2016 saw a spike in the music streaming volume with 50-60 million active monthly users on music streaming applications. With over 300 million Internet-enabled mobile phones in the country and reducing tariff rates, this volume is expected to grow rapidly.
Malhotra said differentiation will come from making sure there is selection available and complementing it with personalization and voice control. It’s about how we get you to your favourite music as effortlessly and simply as possible, he said.
“Though music streaming has really revived the overall music industry, India is still in the infancy stage as far as streaming is concerned,” said Jehil Thakkar, partner at management consulting firm Deloitte India. “Of course, everyone has recognized that there is a definite market and once full penetration is achieved, a couple of major players will emerge.”