Alexa can now find and play music with over 500 ‘activity phrases’

Alexa’s ability to help you find the right music got a boost this week. The virtual assistant is now able to pull up music for a wide range of activities – like music to focus to, music to nap to, to run to, to meditate to, to cook to, and much more – just by asking. The feature works with Amazon’s free-with-Prime streaming service Prime Music as well as Amazon Music Unlimited – its Spotify competitor that’s designed especially with Alexa and Echo speakers in mind, as it’s able to respond to a series of voice commands that go beyond simple song requests.

At launch, Amazon Music Unlimited offered users the ability to ask Alexa for music by genre, era, mood or even by lyrics. The goal is to make playing music easier than fiddling around in an app to find something to listen to, when you’re not set on hearing a particular song or artist.

But it also demonstrates the power of tying Alexa to a music service, as well as Amazon hardware, and a Prime membership – the latter which offers you a discounted Amazon Music Unlimited subscription of $7.99 per month, compared with the $9.99 per month for non-Prime members (or for Apple Music or Spotify for that matter.)

To be clear, Amazon Music already supported some “activity” requests, which would connect a given command – like music for a dinner party – to a playlist that had already been created by Amazon editors.

However, the new “music for activities” feature powered by Alexa goes beyond that. There are now over 500 different activity utterances (voice commands) supported. And you can also combine your request with a particular type of music. For instance, you can ask for “pop music for cooking,” “classical music for sleeping,” “rock music for a dinner party,” and so on.

Apparently, you can also ask for “baby making jazz music,” Amazon says. (I know, right?)

Amazon built these improved voice controls based on how Alexa users were requesting their tunes. The company said it has seen some funnier, more unusual requests coming in, like the above (also requested: “hooking up” music), or “music for getting pumped.” Instead of maintaining a more limited selection music for activity requests, the company built controls to respond to people’s most-asked for activities.

The most popular request involves people asking for music to de-stress, which accounts for 27 percent of incoming requests of this nature. The high demand for this type of music is also likely why Apple Music’s newest personalized playlist is also music to chill to. Apple didn’t say how many users were in search of relaxing songs, but Amazon’s data gives a window into the popularity of this type of request.

As to how Amazon Music is figuring out the right music for a mood, the company declined to say. We do know that Amazon is a Gracenote client – the music data specialists whose technology is able to classify songs using machine learning and A.I. Apple Music and Spotify are Gracenote data customers, as well. And its technology is capable of classifying music by mood. But in this case, we understand Gracenote is not involved.

The feature is live now on Alexa, and works with paid Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions, or the free music service that comes with your Prime membership.

Headline updated to emphasize that Alexa supports 500 triggering phrases, rather than 500 activities.