If you haven’t yet settled down to assemble your summer playlist, the folks at Amazon are hoping you’ll put theirs on instead. The digital commerce giant, which has begun taking bolder steps into making original content, unveiled "Songs of the Summer" on Friday, a playlist of exclusive original songs and covers with a summery bent. On the two-hour playlist, versions of iconic hits like “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” mingle with bright originals by groups including Blitzen Trapper and Baio.
The playlist's songs can be purchased individually; but if you want to stream them, you'll need an Amazon Prime membership.
Amazon has been in the digital music game for a while; it’s offered MP3 downloads since 2007, and it’s long been one of the world’s top digital music retailers. But its entry in the streaming space, Prime Music, has the look and feel of a minnow. Its catalog of 1 million songs, for example, is much smaller than the ones offered by competitors like Spotify, Rhapsody, Apple Music or Tidal, which all contain upward of 30 million songs. And its curation services, which are an increasingly important way of differentiating from the competition, apparently do not command the same kind of cultural cachet that Spotify’s most popular playlists do. Where a Spotify playlist like Rap Caviar has more than 3 million followers, the top-rated Amazon playlist has just 24 reviews.
It is also difficult to say how many people actually use Prime Music. Amazon does not release numbers for how many of its customers are Prime subscribers; some analyst estimates peg the total somewhere around 40 million people. Even if it did, it would be a stretch to say people are just there for the music. Prime members get access to a whole host of goodies, including original video programming and free two-day shipping on most of the goods available on Amazon’s site.
But it also has a mammoth amount of money to spend, and projects like “Songs of the Summer” suggest that it intends to spend that money in a very unusual way. While companies like Tidal and Apple Music jockey and elbow one another over the limited exclusive rights to certain songs or albums that artists have already produced, Amazon has apparently decided that it wants to commission original, themed material. This is the seventh themed compilation Amazon has made, and like most of its predecessors, including “Indie for the Holidays” and “Amazon Acoustics,” it consists at least partly of music that was made by famous artists specifically for Amazon.
It’s maybe not on the scale of a multimillion-dollar partnership forged between Drake and Apple Music, but with millions of American consumers up for grabs in the streaming music subscription race, Amazon can afford to tinker and, just like it does in all its other ventures, settle in to play the long game.