Prime Music’s Clunky Interface Should Make Customers Feel At Home, Says Amazon

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Spotify has nothing to worry about. Prime Music is not going to eat its lunch yet. But not because of the lack of available tracks: The interface is from a bygone era, yet Amazon says it should be familiar to its Prime customers.

The retail giant launched its first music streaming service today. Called Prime Music, the service offers over 1 million tracks but lacks releases newer than six months old and anything from Universal Music.

It’s painfully obvious that Amazon didn’t design the service to compete with other streaming services like Spotify, Rdio or Beats Music. Those services live and die by their user interfaces. Amazon simply added the streaming option to its existing product pages. The service lacks an obvious way to simply hit play and listen to endless music. Users have to “shop” for the free streaming service. But that’s by design.

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Steve Boom, Vice President of Digital Music for Amazon, told me today that the service was designed with the current Amazon shopper in mind. “It’s a familiar user interaction for our customers,” he said, later comparing the service to shopping at a store where people go up and down aisles selecting tracks and albums to listen to later.

This interaction is distinctly different from Spotify or Rdio where tracks do not have to be added to a user’s library. Click and the track starts playing and is followed by more music.

Boom said Amazon did not set out to build a clone, alluding to the main players in the music streaming game. As has been widely pointed out, Prime Music offers a fraction of the tracks available from competitors, most notably, any music from Universal. Where Prime Music currently has “over 1 million tracks” Both Spotify and Rdio offer over 20 million.

“We’re not promising a comprehensive selection,” Boom said. “It’s pretty simple. If our goal was to provide a lookalike service, that would have been a problem, but that’s not our goal.”

Prime Music’s lackluster launch closely mirrors that of Prime Instant Video. When that service launched, it offered few incentives over Netflix. Yet, some six years after its launch, I’ve lately argued that Prime Instant Video is now the best video streaming service available, especially after the addition of HBO content.

Amazon doesn’t feel it will steal customers from the incumbents. Boom told me that the company’s market research found that its customers use multiple music services. Prime Music was simply designed to offer Prime subscribers additional content through a familiar interface. Yet as the evolution of Prime Instant Video shows, Spotify, Rdio and Beats shouldn’t completely dismiss Amazon. One day Prime Music could be the best service available — but only if the user interface is updated.