By Todd Bernhard on Fri, 06/13/2014
The dust hasn't even settled on Apple's mega-acquisition of Beats by Dre and Beats Music. The subscription service has been regarded as a better interface than iTunes Radio, Apple's internally developed answer to Pandora and Spotify. Now, Amazon wants to get into the act. Not satisfied selling music, books and movies, they now offer a streaming service called Prime Music. The service has over one million songs, including popular Grammy winners, so this is not a rehash of your father's old playlist.
The best part is, Amazon Prime customers get this for free. Amazon raised eyebrows a month or so ago when they jacked up the price of Prime from $80/year to $100 (half price for students, by the way), but now at least they are adding value with no extra cost. It might have been an easier pill to swallow if the price increase occurred at the same time as the Prime Music announcement, but that ship has sailed. Prime was already a good deal for frequent purchasers at Amazon, as Prime users get free two-day shipping on most products. Additionally, Amazon Prime Videos are a great resource and competitor to Netflix, HBO GO, and RedBox.
By comparison, Apple's iTunes Radio is free, but ad supported. iTunes Match customers (such as myself) get ad-free iTunes Radio, making the iTunes Match service more valuable. Ironically, Steve Jobs was against music subscription services for a long time. He had debates with Jimmy Iovine, one of Apple's most recent hires thanks to the Beats acquisition. Jobs felt that consumers watched movies once or twice but listened to the same music repeatedly. Therefore, movie and TV show rentals made sense, but music was to be purchased. I understand this because, like Jobs, I grew up in the era of the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones. These were classic artists whose songs would live on. I cherished my collection of vinyl records, as I was a disc jockey at my high school and fraternity.
Today, however, music is electronic, invisible, and more disposable. Artists come and go, with little staying power. Maybe I'm a fuddy duddy, but will people listen to Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers, or Miley Cyrus in thirty years? Not likely. It makes sense to rent today's music and listen via the many radio services. Now, with Amazon's Prime Music, it makes even more financial sense.