Amazon Music Unlimited expands to the UK, Germany and Austria today

Amazon’s new on-demand, streaming music service, Amazon Music Unlimited, has taken its first steps abroad after launching last month in the U.S. to go head to head with Apple Music, Spotify, Google and the rest. The service — which offers some 40 million songs on tap — is now live in the UK and will also go live in Germany and Austria later today, a spokesperson tells me. Prime members pay £7.99 per month or £79 per year; while non-Prime members pay £9.99 per month. Those buying the service to use only on Amazon’s Echo home speaker/interactive voice hub are charged a discounted £3.99/month.

Amazon is not revealing take-up numbers for the US service to date except for giving a predictably upbeat spin on it: “We’ve been thrilled with customer reaction to the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited in the U.S. last month and we’re excited to quickly bring the service to customers in the UK,” said Steve Boom, VP Amazon Music, in a statement.

As with the U.S. version of the service, Amazon Music Unlimited does actually have a limit of sorts: you have to be a member of Amazon’s loyalty program, Prime, to get a discount for it, adding it to the list of sweeteners that the e-commerce giant offers to users in exchange for a monthly payment and free shipping. Other perks include video streaming and food delivery. Consumers in the UK pay £5.99 per month or £79 per year in the UK for Prime membership.

While a lot of Echo owners who are already subscribers to Spotify or Pandora might have added a skill to use those services over the Amazon device, Amazon has made its own music service much more tightly integrated.

This means that, while Amazon is somewhat late to the party by launching this service now — Music Unlimited being its second recent attempt to bring in users with a streaming music service — it’s the extra functionality that Amazon has added in, which might get more people to switch or at least try a streaming service (this streaming service) out for the first time.

It starts at the start: to begin listening, you ask the voice response system, Alexa, “Alexa, start my Amazon Music Unlimited free trial.” — no need to activate a skill.

And if you are a Spotify user, for example, and have found it sometimes hard to navigate Spotify with Alexa and the Echo, Amazon adds in significantly more voice features. These include giving Alexa a line from a song to find it; giving it the name of an artist to create a playlist; asking for the latest track from a specific musician; asking for music from a particular time period; music by moods; and personalised playlists based on what you have listened to before, by just asking Alexa to “play music.”

It remains to be seen whether Amazon will allow competing music providers the ability to “teach” Alexa similar functionality, or if they even will want to. For now, it’s a clever set of skills that highlight some of the limitations of the other services, at least when used with Amazon’s own devices.

It also, conversely, means that for those who are not Prime members or Echo owners, there is not much to differentiate the service from the others in the mix, either by features or price. In that sense, it seems like the hope for Amazon is that the tandem interests of discount, interesting integrations with a new connected home product, and music service will potentially drive more users to all of its products.

“If you want a sense of the future of voice-controlled music, go ahead and ask Alexa for a free Amazon Music Unlimited trial, and play around on your Echo,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, in a statement. If you don’t know the name of a song but know a few lyrics, if you want to hear songs from a specific decade, or even if you’re looking for music to match your mood, just ask. Our U.S. customers love Amazon Music Unlimited on Echo, and we think our UK customers will too.”