As Amazon Music seeks to gain a competitive edge over rival music and podcast platforms, the audio streamer is sweetening the deal for Prime members by including ad-free podcast listening as a member perk and increasing its library of music from 2 million to 100 million songs, available on shuffle mode for members without Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions.
At launch on Tuesday, publishers like CNN, NPR, The New York Times, Barstool Sports, Slate and ESPN will offer their top podcasts without ads on Amazon Music. The ad-free podcast selection will also include the Wondery library (SmartLess, Morbid, My Favorite Murder, How I Built This), select Audible podcasts and all Amazon Music exclusive shows, which now include the hit true-crime podcast from the creator known as MrBallen and a new series from Keke Palmer (Baby, This Is Keke Palmer) — both of which are available only on Amazon Music beginning Nov. 1.
Coming two years after Amazon added podcasts to Amazon Music, the push toward an ad-free podcast experience for Prime members may help Amazon Music attract new and existing podcast listeners who want to avoid ads on other platforms like Spotify, where having a subscription still means listening to ads on podcasts. (As of September, 39.3 percent of podcast listening takes place on Apple Podcasts while 26.6 percent takes place on Spotify, according to the hosting platform Buzzsprout; Amazon Music accounts for 0.7 percent.)
“Audio was never really a front and center benefit, even though we’ve had a Prime tier on Amazon Music for a while,” Wondery CEO Jen Sargent said in an interview with THR, pointing to how consumers typically associate Prime memberships with online shopping and, more recently, streaming entertainment. “[In the] past two years since the podcast service launched as part of Amazon Music, there’s been an interest in really offering an enhanced audio benefit for Prime members, and that’s exactly what we’ve been working towards and what we’re launching.”
To entice publishers to forgo advertising on Amazon Music, participating publishers are receiving compensation to provide their shows without ads on the streaming service, according to Sargent. Publishers who still want advertising on Amazon Music can continue to distribute their podcasts on the platform with ads.
Additional updates rolling out on Tuesday include a podcast preview feature, which will give users an audio soundbite of a show to help them determine what podcasts to listen to. The soundbites, which will be available for a “couple hundred podcasts” at launch, are editorially curated by a team at Amazon Music, according to the streamer’s head of podcasts, Todd Pringle.
“This medium has been around for 15-plus years now, and there hasn’t been a lot of progress in the way that discovery works for podcasts. We’re excited to roll this out to help with that,” Pringle said of the preview feature. “We really feel like the the power of hearing the audio itself is really a lot more compelling than, for example, reading a brief text description about it.”
As for Amazon Music’s library of songs, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers ($9.99/month, or $8.99/month for Prime members) will still have on-demand access to more than 100 million songs. Tuesday’s update gives Prime members without the added subscription access to that entire library, albeit through select playlists and on shuffle mode for artists and albums.
A previous version of this story misstated the name of Keke Palmer’s podcast. It is Baby, This Is Keke Palmer, not Baby, It’s Keke Palmer.