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Amazon launches "Prime Music" streaming service

Amazon began offering a streaming music service on Thursday with a catalog of over one million songs. 

NEW YORK: Amazon began offering a streaming music service on Thursday, in a move aimed at keeping customers in its orbit amid the rise in services like Pandora and Spotify.

The US online giant announced "Prime Music" will be offered free and without advertising for customers of Amazon Prime -- a subscription service that includes free delivery, access to online movies and books, and other advantages.

The Amazon music catalog of one million songs is far smaller than rival offerings from services such as Spotify, which has 20 million, but appears to aim at a niche of customers as a new benefit to the Amazon Prime service.

"With Prime Music, Prime members have unlimited, ad-free access to over a million songs at no additional cost to their membership," Amazon said in a statement.

"Prime Music includes tens of thousands of albums from top artists like Daft Punk, Pink, Bruno Mars, Blake Shelton, The Lumineers, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. And we're just getting started -- more music is being added all the time."

Customers will also be able to download songs and playlists and listen when they are offline to avoid data charges.

The service, available for US customers as of Thursday, is unlikely to directly challenge rival music services but could bolster Amazon's customer base and notably its "Prime" subscription service, which recently raised its annual fee for US customers to $99 from $79.

"Amazon's future business will depend on how many times a day the company can get its customers to interact with Amazon," said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.

"If you're Pandora or even Apple, getting people to use you several times a day doesn't really drive revenue up, but in the case of Amazon, getting the customer to interact with you several times a day leads to more frequent purchases, and that's what Amazon has in mind with the music service."

Amazon, which has been adding digital content to its vast retail offerings, has been rumoured for months to have been working on a music service but reports said talks had been bogged down over royalties and licensing fees.

Amazon includes songs from major music labels Sony and Warner Music but talks are still ongoing with the other major publisher, Universal Music Group, according to sources familiar with the service.

But there may be gaps for some music lovers: The online news site TechCrunch said nine of the top 10 songs on the Billboard 100 were not available for streaming on Amazon.

The move comes after Apple agreed to pay $3 billion for Beats Music to boost its streaming service and compete with the likes of Spotify and Pandora.

Owners of Amazon Kindle tablets can get Prime Music in an automatic over-the-air update and it will also be available as an app for users of Apple and Android mobile devices.

The move comes with Amazon having scheduled a media event next week, widely expected to be the unveiling of a smartphone that integrates in the Kindle family of devices.

Amazon said some of the artists available on the music service include Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Green Day, Whitney Houston and Willie Nelson.

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