This week Amazon (AMZN) finally released its new streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, becoming the latest major company to enter the already saturated streaming market dominated by Spotify and Apple Music (AAPL).
Amazon may be officially pricing its option at the same $9.99 a month as every other streaming service, but the company has a trick up its sleeve: It’s undercutting the competition for its Prime members (charging $7.99 a month) and consumers who have the company’s home devices like the Echo and Echo Dot ($3.99).
Though Amazon doesn’t disclose its Prime subscriber count, estimates have topped 54 million, making it likely that half the households in the country have Prime—making this $2 discount accessible to a massive number of people who likely already subscribe to Apple Music, Spotify, or Tidal.
And for the 4 million customers who own a voice-assistant Echo system, Amazon is sweetening the deal even more, offering the service for just $3.99 a month for those who use its home platform.
It’s fair to assume that most people who pay for a music streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music have Prime already—and could save $2 per month by switching to Amazon Music Unlimited. However, there may be plenty of reasons for people who already subscribe to another service to stay with their current music provider and forego the $24 savings.
What Amazon brings to the table
Clearly, Amazon’s got the price going for it for most potential customers. For someone who doesn’t currently pay for a platform but has Prime, this may be a compelling case—especially for an Echo user who wants the smoothest possible integration with the Alexa platform and their smart home environment. Given that all you have to do is ask an Echo to play a song, it’s actually like having a personal DJ on hand, 24/7.
In general, the differences between the streaming services lay deep in the weeds, and may not be enough to push someone over the speedbump of switching services and porting playlists and personalization on multiple devices. As one of my Yahoo Finance colleagues mused: music streaming services are becoming a lot like banks these days – they’re all pretty similar, in quality, features, and music selection. That’s a good analogy—you really can’t go that wrong.
Spotify’s longer tenure and greater user base means it may have your friends on it, a valuable feature if you love to share. And those users have created a massive amount of playlists, something that algorithms can only approximate. These playlists cover almost any kind of music you could ask for. Recently, I felt like listening to some ‘80s prom tunes and actually found a few playlists already made. It also works with Amazon’s Echo platforms.
Apple Music has a few things in its corner as well. Obviously, as an Apple product it has Apple’s design team behind it—and thus flawlessly integrates with Apple hardware. And it has managed to negotiate deals with Taylor Swift. (The new Amazon service does, too.) It also has robust music recommendation software like Spotify and exclusive radio programs like Beats 1 and other popular radio stations DJed by a human.
The next two most popular options have advantages as well. Tidal, whose subscriber count – at under 5 million – lags behind the 17 million of Apple Music and 40 million of Spotify, offers ultra-high fidelity and exclusives from Beyoncé and Kanye West. Google Play, whose subscriber count isn’t publicized, offers commercial-free YouTube, which is enough to tip the scales for video-heavy users.
In terms of catalogue, the services don’t differ too much except for a few musicians—albeit big ones like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Kanye—and have more similarities than differences, which include pricing schemes for family plans (most of them cost $9.99 a month or $14.99 a month for a six-user family plan).
In the end, choosing among all these services amounts to a relatively small decision, though an informed consumer can maximize what they’ll get out of their $9.99 if they choose the right one. And if Amazon really wants to pry market share from this very competitive space, it might need to sweeten the deal even more to distinguish itself.
Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumerism, tech, and personal finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.