Amazon offers two music services, and the difference proves that you get what you pay for.
Prime Music (free for Prime subscribers) is a neat freebie, but Music Unlimited ($7.99 per month with Prime, $9.99 per month without Prime) provides more songs and additional ways to control what you're hearing.
And while more sounds nice, I know the question on your mind: do you really need to be spending that extra cash? To find out, we've compared both of Amazon's services and even investigated how they stack up to the Spotify and Apple Music.
How are Music Unlimited and Prime Music the same?
Amazon Prime Music and Music Unlimited both offer ad-free on-demand music listening with offline playback. Both are available on many devices, including smartphones, Amazon's Echo speaker, smart TVs, connected speakers, Macs and PCs.
What does Music Unlimited have that Prime doesn't?
The first major difference between the services is that Prime Music only offers 2 million songs, while Music Unlimited offers "tens of millions" of tracks. Credit: Amazon
If you love to chat with Alexa, you'll also prefer Music Unlimited, which allows for a stronger set of voice commands. For example, if a friend told me that Lorde's latest record is amazing (it is), I could just say "Alexa, play Lorde's new album," to hear it. If your needs are less specific, just ask the assistant to play music by an artist ("Alexa, play Run The Jewels") to get a playlist of that musician's most popular tracks.
Music Unlimited also unlocks Alexa's ability to name the song that's stuck in your head. If you say "Alexa, play the song that goes, 'You see what I mean?, USDA certified lean,'" it will recognize the tune as "The Man" by The Killers. You can also ask Alexa to pull up songs from a specific decade, mood or genre.
How much more does Music Unlimited cost?
Music Unlimited costs an extra $7.99 per month for Prime (which costs $12.99 per month, though you can save $56.88 with its $99 per year annual billing) members.
Without Prime, you'll spend $9.99 per month for Music Unlimited, though if you only want to use Music Unlimited on an Echo, Echo Dot or Tap speaker, that costs just $3.99 per month.
|Prime Music||Music Unlimited |
|Prime members||Free||$7.99 per month|
|Non-Prime members||$12.99 per month or $99 per year (which breaks down to $8.25 per month)||$9.99 per month|
What don't we like about Music Unlimited?
If you're looking for the comfort of having a service with the largest library, we're not sure Amazon is the best option. While most competitors claim "more than 30 million" songs, Amazon Music Unlimited's "tens of millions" doesn't instill much confidence.
Still, I couldn't find any holes in Amazon Music Unlimited's selection when I ran the playlists I rely on through its search engine. An Amazon spokesperson told us that it has "deals with all the major labels—UMG, Warner, Sony as well as hundreds of independent labels like PIAS, The Orchard, TuneCore, INgrooves and more.”
How does Amazon Prime Music compare to Spotify and Apple Music?
Amazon Prime Music and Spotify's free plan are both free, provided that you're a Prime member. And Spotify's free plan may feature 28 million more songs than Prime Music, but that experience is filled with ads and doesn't let you select specific songs, instead making you listen to everything on shuffle.
Apple Music and Spotify Unlimited (both $9.99 per month) and Amazon Music Unlimited ($9.99 per month or $7.99 per month after Prime) offer similar experiences, though Amazon's "tens of millions" song library isn't as inspiring as the "more than 30 million" that Spotify and Apple claim.
Also, Spotify connects you to all of your Facebook friends' listening habits, whereas Amazon doesn't do social media. Apple is introducing social sharing in iOS 11, due this fall.
While both Amazon and Spotify are both on Echo speakers, Android and iOS devices, PCs and Macs and Amazon's Fire devices, Spotify is available on so many more devices that it made SpotifyGear.com to catalogue them all. Apple Music is available from iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Sonos speakers, Macs, PCs, 4th Gen Apple TVs, CarPlay automobiles and the Apple Watch.
If you've amassed a large collection of MP3s over the years, you'll want to use Apple Music (or even Google Play Music) instead. Both Apple and Google's services include the option to upload your own tunes for streaming and downloading to your phone and on other devices. Amazon is terminating Music Storage, its version of this feature, with uploading now disabled and playback ending after January 2019. While Apple's cloud storage comes with the $9.99 per month you spend on Apple Music (or for $24.99 per year), Google's upload-and-stream is free.
If you want to pay for a year of service up-front, Prime users will win again. Music Unlimited costs $79 per year for Prime members, while Apple Music and Spotify both cost $99 for a 1-year subscription.
Who is Music Unlimited best for?
If you're a Prime subscriber, especially if you've got Alexa-enabled devices, you should seriously consider Music Unlimited. Not only will you save $2 per month over Spotify Unlimited or Apple Music, but you'll be using a service that's made for the speakers you've peppered your home with.
Also, one last note: if you know the difference between Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines, Amazon Music Unlimited is definitely right for you. That's because it's the only service that streams all 16 of the country western superstar's studio albums.