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Amazon Prime Music opens – but where's the streaming music?

Small labels lose out... again

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Amazon has rolled out a new streaming music service in the US for its Prime club members, but there’s lots of music missing.

The Prime Music service replaces the MP3 Store and Cloud Player apps. However, it doesn’t include any tracks newer than six months old, and there’s reportedly nothing from Universal Music Group, the world’s largest label. Only around 1 million tracks are available at launch. VC-funded gadget comic The Verge reckons this is “a pretty decent offering”. More discerning music fans may disagree.

The New York Times reports that indies have been rogered again, since Amazon offered a $25m pool for the three major labels but only $5m for the indies, who take about 34 per cent of the overall market globally, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Some music publishers are smarting too. The paper also notes that Amazon was unable to reach a deal with several of them, but went ahead and launched anyway, using “compulsory” licences that are part of the US's federal copyright regime. This might mean that the service won’t be able to launch in territories where it will be obliged to reach an agreement with publishers.

Amazon was the first MP3 store to sell DRM-free MP3 downloads from major labels in 2007. (Previously, independent labels had supported DRM-free MP3s, through services such as Bleep and eMusic, but the majors hadn’t). Amazon launched a cloud music locker in 2011.

Last week, indie labels formally asked the European Commission to investigate Google’s threats to block music from YouTube if the labels refuse to sign new take-it-or-leave it contracts for Google’s forthcoming audio streaming service.

Amazon has become increasingly bold in the way it deals with suppliers. It’s effectively crippled major publisher Hachette – which owns Time Warner Book Group and Hyperion – by refusing to take pre-order from the company, or list forthcoming products. Punters can still buy the goods but will have to wait weeks or months to get them. ®

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