App Fridays: Amazon Music is intuitive, well-designed, and gets localisation spot on

9th Mar 2018
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The latest entrant in the Indian music-streaming market has beefed up its library with a rich collection of regional songs spanning artistes and decades. Plus, Alexa voice controls integrated within the app make music discovery a joy.

The music-streaming market in India has heated up significantly in the last one or two years with several local and international players jostling for listenership. Amazon is the latest entrant with Prime Music, which it rolled out late last month.

On the surface, Prime Music that comes bundled with the yearly Amazon Prime subscription appears a great deal. At no additional cost, users are treated to “tens of millions of songs”, ad-free across multiple languages and genres.

Amazon, of course, is betting big on localised content and has put in place numerous curated playlists around events, occasions, festivals, moods, and so on. Then there’s Alexa integration, allowing users to control their playlists with voice commands.

Prime Music is available across platforms - iOS, Android, web player, desktop app, Fire TV Stick, and Echo devices. Amazon wants users to discover their favourite music as fast as possible, and so has put a premium on discovery and navigation.

In a conversation with YourStory, Amazon Music India Director, Sahas Malhotra, said:

“Indians listen to music in at least two to three languages. We are personalising the content for them so that they can reach their favourite music in their preferred language in the shortest time possible.”

We took a closer look at the Amazon Music app.

First up, you sign into the service with your Amazon ID. You can access the music only through Prime subscription, which is available at Rs 999 per year.

Amazon lets you select your language preference at the outset. It helps the app better understand your tastes and throw up relevant content, minimising music discovery time. There are 12 languages to choose from.

Once you start browsing, the “Home” section offers an assortment of “new and trending” and “popular” songs in your preferred languages.

The top carousel on the homepage throws up, what Amazon calls “Hot Right Now”, mostly Bollywood releases.

Without scrolling through Home, you can directly click on the “Playlists” or “Stations” tabs on the browsing screen.

Stations are curated on the basis of genres, eras, decades, artistes, and industries. Popular stations include Bollywood Duets, Top Indian Pop, Bollywood Weekends, Tamil Devotional, Punjabi Duets, Sufi Essentials, and so on.

You can sort the offering in a dropdown menu and weed out what is irrelevant. Stations are great if you are a lazy listener and want a radio-like experience, so you can listen to whatever comes up, without the disturbing ads.

Then there are “Playlists”, which can be sorted as per moods and activities, as well as music genres.

 

Amazon scores high when it comes to segregation of genres. The content on offer is not only broad but also deep, with micro-genres like Carnatic and Hindustani under classical music, children’s music, Sufi and Qawwali, Rabindrasangeet and so on.

If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time discovering and playing music on the app, you will be leaving trails for Amazon Music to throw up better, quicker suggestions the next time. Plus, you can now make use of tabs like “Recents” and “My Music” on the app.

“Recents” stocks up your most recently played songs, stations, and playlists and searches. If you’re short of time, instead of browsing through the rest of the app, you can directly start streaming from this section, provided you want to hear the same music.

 

“My Music” is like your own private playlist. You can keep adding songs and albums to it as and when you hear them. (You can also create public playlists and make them viewable and shareable to the universe at large.)

All the content is stored in the cloud. Songs can be downloaded too and played offline. Amazon promises “unlimited downloads”. Downloaded tracks are stored on your device.

The most exciting feature of the app is Alexa where Amazon has enabled voice controls in music selection. To use the Alexa feature on the app, you have to first allow microphone access on your device. 

Then, with a simple “Play XYZ” command, you can get Alexa to play your chosen song.

It takes less than five seconds and is smooth. This feature allows users who do not own an Amazon Echo device, to get their first taste of AI-enabled assistant Alexa. Surely, this is smart integration on Amazon’s part and will add to the curiosity around Alexa, and eventually drive Echo sales in India.

Last but not the least, you can open the app, escape all browsing and discovery, and simply click on the Search icon to look for a song, i.e. when you are looking for something specific.

Top draws of the app

Amazon Music is an intuitive and beautifully designed app. The navigation is seamless, the controls are simple and efficient, and the content is rich and diverse. The multi-language, multi-genre offering, and Alexa integration will possibly separate Amazon Music from the rest.

There’s also the option of syncing and playing the music on Fire TV sticks and Amazon Echo devices, thus making music-streaming a family or a community activity. This, Amazon reckons, is Alexa’s doing. It is changing the way people are interacting with music.

The best thing about Prime Music is that you’re virtually paying nothing for it. All of Amazon’s Prime subscribers in India can organically be inducted into the Prime Music ecosystem. Hence, Amazon’s customer acquisition cost for the service is zero.

What can be bettered

There’s always room for improvement in any consumer-facing service.

Amazon Music loads a tad slowly on low-bandwidth networks, but that is the case with all streaming services. If it can be optimised for slow networks, Prime Music will overpower the rest in the Indian market.

Of course, Amazon can expand its content library with more languages, labels, artistes, etc. Though it has dismissed the likelihood of original content creation in India for now, Amazon cannot afford to overlook it for long, considering its peers, especially Saavn, has made a success out of original programming.

Amazon Music vis-a-vis others

The Indian music-streaming space now has at least 10 players. Besides established homegrown services like Gaana, which recently closed a $115 million funding from China’s Tencent, Saavn, Wynk, and others, there are also Apple Music and Google Play Music — Amazon’s global peers — to contend with.

Because Amazon Music is bundled with a Prime subscription, it could elude a section of the music-loving audience reluctant to pay for other services like Prime shopping and Prime Video. In comparison, a Saavn or a Gaana music-only subscription is cheaper.

Unlike Apple Music, Amazon hasn’t rolled out any student pricing plans either. But, Airtel is giving out Prime subscriptions to postpaid users.

Given how Amazon has become integral to Indian ecommerce since its entry in 2013, ascendancy in the music-streaming market may not be all that difficult. Time will tell!

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