When Amazon burst onto the crowded music-streaming market in
October with its own competitor to Spotify and Apple Music, the
question was how it would set itself apart.
The first crucial point it landed
was on price. For Prime members, Amazonâs Music Unlimited service
$6.58 per month
if you commit for a year ($79), versus the standard industry
price of $9.99 â though $9.99 is what non-Prime members
But another area Amazon wants to use to set itself apart is its
curation, which itâs been developing since it launched its
less-comprehensive Prime Music product in 2014. And Amazonâs
approach to recommending songs youâll like takes the form of the
companyâs general philosophy: approachability mixed with a ton of
data and selection.
When you open up Amazon Music Unlimited, there are thousands of
playlists Amazon has created for you sitting there, some
generated by algorithms and others by its editorial team.
Thereâs not an infinite selection, but it would be a tall order
to find the bottom of the well.
The huge selection is by design, Dave Dederer, head of
programming and editorial, tells Business Insider. Amazon’s
position is that havingÂ as big a selection as possible
benefits the customer. And having more playlistsÂ gives
Amazon more granular data on what people respond to, which in
turn makes the algorithms better over time, Dederer continues.
When you scroll down a practically never-ending list of playlists
and choose between âAwesome â80s Country Songs,â âHonky Tonk
Heroes,â âAlabama and More,â or even âTear in My Beer: Sad
Country,â Amazon knows a bit more about the kind of country you
Enter the humans
But Amazonâs algorithms arenât the only things contributing to
the companyâs catalog of thousands of playlists. Thereâs also a
bunch produced by Amazonâs editorial team, which looks to fill in
gaps a computer might not be good at.
An example is âDaily Digs,â which surfaces hidden gems, both new
and old. âSongs not enough people have heard,â according to
Amazon’s Jeff Reguilon, whose team makes âDaily Digs.â
While âDaily Digsâ is hand-curated by Reguilonâs team, it doesnât
have a particular genre or demographic in mind. The idea is to be
welcoming and not alienate anyone, Reguilon says. Generally, the
Amazon team that puts together the playlists wants to steer away
from imposing a particular musical vision onto anyone. The goal
isnât to be a musical authority or tastemaker.
That doesnât mean the team isnât obsessed with minute detail.
Reguilon tells a story of trying to decide which version of âWhen
a Man Loves a Womanâ to put on a playlist. He sat there for three
hours straight trying to parse the right one from dozens of
In all, Amazonâs approach to
music curation fits snugly into the companyâs broad
about âsuper-servingâ customers. Amazon wants to give you it all
â every variation of playlist you could want, plus some human
But versions of that vision exist
at Spotify, Apple Music, and so on.
What Amazon could still benefit
from is a blockbuster feature users latch onto as a reason to
switch, or to stay. Spotify found it with “Discover Weekly,” its
hyper-personalized playlist that gives you a new set of tunes
each week. As Amazon builds its trove of data, and sees what
users respond to, that feature could certainly emerge. And for
now, Amazon can use the low price point and approachability to
snag new users.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his
personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.