It wasn’t so long ago that we were starting to wonder whether the music streaming wars were coming towards an end. Google Play Music is shutting down permanently as of the end of December this year, and iTunes has disappeared to be replaced by Apple’s new(er) “Apple Music” platform. It might be the case that Google finds a way to make YouTube Music successful where Google Music failed, and Apple Music might one day command the same share of the market that iTunes once did, but for now, at least, we’re down to two major players when it comes to the domination of the music streaming market. One of them is Amazon, and the other is Spotify. Of the two, it was thought that Spotify was the one that held a clear advantage.
Aside from having a much larger base of regular users, Spotify appeared to be the more innovative of the two brands. Recently, after a long period of considering what the next step for their business should be, the people behind Spotify hit upon the idea of specializing in podcasts – and not just any old podcasts. Their team has approached and successfully recruited several of the word’s most popular podcast creators, and since July, Spotify has been offering podcasts by those people in video format. A few cynics have pointed out that a podcast with moving pictures is basically a talk show, but that doesn’t change the fact that Spotify now has as many people coming to its service to listen to people talk as it does to listen to them playing music – and many of them now use Spotify as a visual service as well as an audio one.
The moment that Spotify announced the new service, Amazon was bound to respond quickly. The situation can accurately be compared to rival online slots websites – an industry from which modern streaming services take their model. When all an online slots website offers is the online slots themselves, there’s little to pick between one website and another. To beat each other, online slots websites have, in recent years, become far more than online slots websites. Some of them also offer other casino games, from online slots and blackjack to bingo by way of poker. A few of them even allow users to play live video poker with real dealers and use that as a way of staying ahead of the game. Successful online slots websites aren’t just about slots, and they haven’t been for a long time. Successful music streaming platforms are now no longer about music. It appears that video has officially become part of the deal, and Amazon has decided to get in on the act.
Effective immediately, musicians and performers who have both an official Twitch account and an official presence on Amazon Music can link the two things together. In doing so, they can start streaming live performances to users on Amazon Music, and their fans (or potential fans) on Amazon Music can tune into the stream without needing to leave the app. This is arguably a cut above the functionality of the video content on Spotify and provides a standard of service that’s comparable to YouTube. If the idea catches on – and given the number of people who use both Twitch and Amazon Music, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t – this could be devastating for the YouTube Music business model. It could also make Amazon into the new home of live performances on the internet for bands and singers. 2020 has been a terrible year in terms of bands being able to hit the road and play shows, or even to reach new audiences with their creations. In one fell swoop, Amazon has provided them with a way of doing something about that.
From am artists’ point of view, there are two big positives aside from remuneration that have come from this expansion of the Amazon Music offering. The first is that every time they ‘go live,’ a notification will be sent to every single one of their followers on Amazon Music, and also on Twitch. The second is that they’ll automatically be listed on a brand-new feature page inside Amazon Music called ‘Live,’ which lets casual listeners know who’s playing right now. If used correctly, this provides an opportunity for newer acts to find an audience purely by playing at the same time that potential new fans happen to be browsing the app. It’s also an opportunity for bands to expand their Twitch followings. The notifications about live streams will appear to people even if they don’t have the Twitch app and will allow those users to watch the stream, but they’ll have to download and install Twitch if they want to interact with performers through chat functions or to leave them a tip. That’s also a benefit from Amazon’s point of view, as it may drive more people toward using Twitch.
Amazon still has a lot of ground to make up on Spotify. The most recent figures available, which come from the end of January 2020, say that Amazon Music has a user base of approximately 55 million customers – down five million compared to one year ago. In comparison, Spotify has a lead of almost double that, hovering just under one hundred and forty million users. It would almost certainly be impossible for Amazon to close the gap with music streaming services alone, as with few exceptions, the same performers and artists have their music available on both platforms, but innovations like this might make the difference. If Amazon can portray its music platform as the home of exclusive live performances while all Spotify can offer is recordings and podcasts, suddenly Amazon’s proposition starts to look a lot more exciting than that of its biggest rival. With the use of Twitch for music enjoying a sharp rise in popularity, this could well be the perfect time to tie both of the Amazon platforms together to create something larger and more powerful. That’s precisely what Amazon has done with this groundbreaking idea.
The new functionality is available immediately, and so if you’re an Amazon Music user, you’ll probably start receiving notifications from some of your favorite artists in the very near future.