If music be the sweet sound of more users, then play on Alexa.
At least, that seems to be the gist of Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos' interview with Billboard magazine published online yesterday. Along with Steve Boom, head of Amazon Music, Bezos spoke at length about music streaming. The Seattle company burst into the music streaming industry last year by introducing a service that undercut rivals. (See also: Amazon Introduces Music Streaming Service.)
According to Boom, this is a "golden age" for the music industry. "What we are seeing is that people are listening to more music than ever," he said. That increase is partly the result of a profusion of devices that stream and play music. Amazon's Echo – a smart assistant device that the company unveiled in December 2015 – is one such device. (See also: Amazon Redesigns Its Connected Speaker.)
In the Billboard interview, Boom and Bezos touted the device's artificial intelligence capabilities to enlarge the scope for music search. "Amazon has a machine learning system that outperforms humans on grading strawberries," explained Bezos. Boom referenced Alexa's ability to play songs from specific eras evoking a certain mood based on user commands. For example, Alexa users can ask the device to play "sad songs from the 90s." This is not possible on other music streaming services, such as Spotify or Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) Apple Music, which use menu controls or playlists (system-generated or user-created) to play music.
In startup parlance, this is referred to as the removal of "friction" associated with a task. Users flock to services that enable them to perform tasks with minimal effort and distraction. In addition, there are a number of benefits to Amazon – from more data about consumer tastes to additional sales on its e-commerce website – that could result from increased music streaming on its Echo devices.
However, a possible discordant note for Amazon Music may be the quantity of tracks in its catalog. The streaming service has not disclosed the number of songs that it currently has available. Music streaming leaders Spotify and Apple each have 30 million songs. In fact, the latter service also has access to exclusives from top pop stars, such as Taylor Swift. (See also: Apple and the Battle for Streaming Music.)
Amazon's Echo is estimated to have sold 11 million devices so far, based on estimates by Morgan Stanley. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, another research firm, stated that the company has sold 8.2 million Alexa devices. (See also: Amazon Has Sold 8.2 Million Echo Devices So Far.)