The rumors were true: In the wee hours of the night, Amazon launched Prime Music, a streaming music service with more than a million tunes, zero ads, and zero cost to Amazon Prime subscribers. (There's a 30-day free trial available for non-subscribers who want to give the service a spin.)
Signing into the service reveals that it seems largely centered around playlists--the usual genre-, mood-, and artist-based collections found in similar form on other streaming music services, like Spotify.
As it stands, however, Prime Music is no true Spotify rival--though that doesn't make it any less of an interesting value-add for current and would-be Amazon Prime subscribers.
The interface is pretty clunky. Diving into Prime Music's various categories simply dumps you into a new "Prime Music" section of the larger Amazon website's digital music section, similar to the way Prime Instant Video is handled, and the standard Amazon desktop interface is kind of ugly and link-centric. A more slick-looking Amazon Music iOS app launched alongside the general service, however. The older Android Amazon Music app should also work with Prime Music, and Kindle Fire devices have Amazon Music baked in.
Actually streaming a song isn't a straightforward affair, either. There are no Play buttons on those playlists and album pages. Instead, you have to click a blue Add to Library button, confirm in a pop-up window that you indeed want to add the album to your library, and then head to your Amazon Cloud Player music library to find and stream them. Ugh. It's a slog. To make matters worse, Amazon doesn't make the link to your music library especially obvious on the digital music pages. (Protip: Look for an nondistinct text link above the main Add to Library button on a page.)
Nor is the song collection especially deep. One million tunes sounds like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the 20 million-plus tracks offered by streaming competitors like Spotify, Rdio, and Xbox Music. There are very few newer releases available; most of the catalog is older material, and as Recode points out, Prime Music launched without any songs from the Universal Music Group, a.k.a. the largest music label in the world.
Don't let all that negativity get you completely down, though. As a Spotify rival, Prime Music clearly isn't up to snuff. (Yet?) But as an addition to the wider-spread Amazon Prime ecosystem, a million free tunes and hundreds of free playlists is nothing but welcome. Like Prime Instant Video and the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, Prime Music makes that $100 yearly subscription to the 2-day shipping service sting just a little bit less--even if you're unlikely to ever actually touch Prime Music over the competition. And hey: Prime Music will probably be easy to use on-the-run on an Amazon smartphone if one indeed rears its head on June 18.