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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Amazon launches Music Unlimited service, including Echo-only plan

As rumored, Amazon is throwing its hat into the music streaming fray with a new $10/month streaming plan dubbed Music Unlimited.

With so many music services already on the market, what’s Amazon bringing to the table? The key attraction seem to be its attempt to undercut competitors’ pricing: if you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can pay a discounted rate of just $8 per month to add Music Unlimited to your account—it goes down further if you pay the yearly fee of $79. (A $15/month or $149/year six-person family plan is in the offing for later this year.)

Moreover, Amazon has also—again as predicted—launched a version of the service that’s available only on the Echo. For $4 a month, you can stream music via Amazon’s device—if you have more than one, it’s only available on one at a time—and only via the Echo. The major attraction there seems to be the many voice commands one can use to interact with the service via Alexa, which let you play songs by specifying lyrics or ask for the latest song by an artist.

Prime Music, the music streaming option that was included with Amazon Prime subscriptions, will stick around, but it has a much smaller catalog than the new offering: only two million compared to the “tens of millions” that Amazon cites for Music Unlimited. The company doesn’t seem to be aiming for the same music-exclusives market as Apple, but it is working with some artists to offer commentary on some of their albums.

As an Echo user, I find myself intrigued by the Echo-only plan. I’m not sure if it make sense or not yet—given that I don’t currently subscribe to any music plans, it seems like the $8-per-month Prime option might actually be a better deal. But then there’s a question if Music Unlimited will work as well with the rest of my devices—Macs, iOS devices, a Sonos—as something like, say, Apple Music. Perhaps that’s the streaming music market in a nutshell: a lot of options, none of them obviously superior.

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]