Amazon Music Focusing on Alexa, Echo to Stand Out Amid Streaming Competition

Alex Luke
Stewart Cook/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Amazon Music faces a crowded competitive field, but it’s looking to lean into its parent company’s voice-controlled devices to differentiate itself.

That was the message from Alex Luke, global head of programming and content strategy at the streaming service, in his keynote Q&A at Variety’s Entertainment & Technology Summit on Thursday.

While competitors from Spotify and Pandora may have focused on heavily visual interfaces on the smartphones where its user bases grew, Amazon is learning fast how devices Alexa and Echo are dictating an entirely different style of audience usage that Luke hailed “as the beginning of a new chapter in streaming music.”

“This focus on voice is where we have all our energy and resources planted,” Luke told Janko Roettgers, senior Silicon Valley correspondent at Variety. “We see the interest from our customers in Alexa and Echo as a combined offering with music.”

Machine learning is helping Amazon glean lessons in this new mode of subscriber behavior, from the more communal-style of listening multiple people engage in to the way some users might ask for a song with just a fragment of lyrics, as opposed to its official title. Last month, Amazon began enabling users to verbally access playlists driven by specific activities from cooking to running.

“We try to contemplate every way a consumer might ask Alexa or Echo for music,” said Luke. “Voice is a huge inflection for music.”

The challenge is compounded in the case of Amazon’s Echo Show, which marries the Echo’s voice capabilities with a screen. That multi-modal experience brings a different set of user behaviors, so much so that Luke said that Amazon is building separate playlist capabilities for voice and visual presentations.  In-vehicle listening is also an area where voice-driven music has a big growth opportunity, he added.

 

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