Media & Entertainment

Amazon Music customers can now talk to Alexa more naturally


Amazon Music, reportedly the third-largest subscription-based music service worldwide, is doubling down on voice. The company is today announcing the launch of a new set of features that will allow Amazon Music customers to chat with Alexa in a more natural way in order to find and play the music they want to hear. The features allow Amazon Music customers and Alexa to engage in back-and-forth conversations to narrow down playlist options, and will allow users to tell Alexa which songs they like or hate, and have her remember.

Alexa’s integration with Amazon Music isn’t new. The company has been working to add a variety of voice control options for its music service since launch so customers could easily play songs on their Echo speakers and other Alexa-powered devices.

Over the years, it has offered the ability for customers to ask Alexa for music by mood, genre or even lyrics, and more. But these have been simple voice commands, like “Alexa, play pop music,” for example, or “Alexa, play the song that goes…”, followed by some lyrics.

Now, Alexa will be able to have more of a discussion with the customer.

At launch, this feature will help customers find the right playlist — like a holiday playlist or one for a dinner party, Amazon suggests.

To get started, customers can say, “Alexa, help me find a playlist,” “Alexa, help me find music for a holiday party,” or “Alexa, help me find dinner music.”

For help finding a playlist by genre, you have to start by saying “Alexa, help me find a playlist,” then direct the assistant to the genre you want. (Asking her, “Alexa, help me find a workout playlist,” didn’t work to trigger this feature during testing, unfortunately).

Amazon says Alexa can also be directed to playlists by mood or tempo, in addition to genre or occasion.

After the initial voice command, Alexa responds with follow-up questions to customize the playlist selection for the individual user.

When answering, the assistant sometimes injects her personality into the conversation, as well, by way of her typical corny jokes and comments.

In testing the feature, the conversations often began in different ways.

For example:

Me: Alexa, help me find a holiday playlist.
Alexa: We’ll be rocking around the Christmas tree. Any vibe in particular? Mellow? Or maybe upbeat?

Me: Alexa, help me find a holiday playlist.
Alexa: Sure, let’s sample a few holiday playlists. Shall we narrow the options down to country or maybe jazz?

Me: Alexa, help me find a holiday playlist.
Alexa: Let’s sample a few holiday playlists. Were you thinking any vibe in particular? Relaxed or upbeat, perhaps?

Me: Alexa, help me find a holiday playlist.
Alexa: It’s the most wonderful time of the year. So many options. Should we narrow it down to a classical style or maybe pop?

You can respond to Alexa’s questions naturally, as she offered her various suggestions.

For example:

Me: Alexa, help me find a holiday playlist.
Alexa: Amazon Music has a ton of merry, merry good playlists. Let’s find the right one for you. Were you thinking any vibe in particular? Relaxed or upbeat, perhaps?
Me: Relaxed.
Alexa: Relaxing sounds good. Here’s one of my more popular Christmas playlists, Christmas Choirs.
[A sample of the playlist’s music begins]
Alexa: Will that work?
Me: Let’s do something else.
Alexa: Alright. Try this.
[Another playlist begins]
Alexa: An Irish Christmas. How about that?
Me: Nah. Something else.
Alexa: Okay. You might like this.
[A third playlist begins]
Alexa: Christmas Oldies. Will that work?
Me: Okay, that’s cool.
Alexa: Great. Happy Holidays.
[Music plays]

“It’s a paradigm shift because you’re getting into conversations,” explains  Kintan Brahmbhatt, director of Product for Amazon Music, about the new feature. “Before, customers would ask Alexa to do something and Alexa would respond with music. Today, we’re shifting into deep personalization and Alexa will have an interactive conversation with the customer,” he says.

“The vision and the mission is to provide a very magical and simple customer experience when it comes to discovering music and enjoying music,” Brahmbhatt adds.

The ability to have back-and-forth chats with Alexa isn’t the only new feature today.

The voice assistant will work to help make the music experience more personalized, too.

Now, you can tell Alexa when you like or dislike the song that’s playing. There isn’t one specific command to use here. Instead, any number of phrases will work, like “Alexa, I like this song,” “Alexa, this is my favorite,” or “Alexa, I don’t like this.”

In addition to these explicit signals of interest, Alexa will also learn from your implicit actions — like which songs you play most often. These signals then feed into her ability to play something you like when you ask her to simply “Play Music.”

That command will now trigger a more personalized response that’s based on algorithms that consider factors like your personalized playlist, songs you’ve said you liked, artists you’ve asked Alexa to follow in the past who have new music out and even forgotten songs you haven’t heard in a while, but used to like.

The features are rolling out starting to today to Amazon’s tens of millions of Amazon Music subscribers, which includes both Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited. It will work across any Alexa device, not just Echo speakers and screens.

Amazon is also running a deal that gives customers access to the premium streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited’s 50+ million songs, for $0.99 per month for the first three months.

In the near future, Amazon says Alexa will be able to suggest music, too, when asked for recommendations.

She’ll do so by using cues from your previous listening habits, and by asking a few questions regarding your favorite genres, eras and other preferences. This will allow Alexa to be able to anticipate what customers are in the mood to hear, and suggest relevant music, or new releases tailored to them.

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