Like most other things regarding Amazon these days, rumors had already been circulating that the company would soon start its own subscription-based streaming music service. The only questions: what form would it take? And how much would it cost?
The answers arrived in the dead of night early Thursday with the quiet launch of Prime Music. So does that make Amazon's move an orchestral manoeuver in the dark?
(Sorry, couldn't resist. Fans of 1980s new wave music will hopefully appreciate the pun).
Fans of the latest Billboard chart-topping hits, however, may not think much of Prime Music. For if you are already paying $79 or $99 a year for a Prime membership, you do indeed get free (and commercial-free) access to more than a million songs from Sony and Warners studio artists on any device. That means Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Macklemore, Fun, and the Zac Brown Band, to name just a few. However, Amazon and Universal Music couldn't reach an agreement, so no Katy Perry or Taylor Swift.
Also, you'll notice that a lot of the songs in Prime Music have already enjoyed their time at the top of the charts. It truly is the audio version of Amazon Prime Instant Video; you won't see recent hits - you'll still have to rent or buy those - but you will see enough free classics and timely material to whet your appetite.
If you're already a fan of Spotify or Pandora, this probably won't make you switch services. Those companies offer more in the way of choice. But this is Amazon, which always has its eye on the long term.
Next week CEO Jeff Bezos himself is expected to take the wraps off of an Amazon smartphone, so maybe Prime Music becomes a part of that announcement. The company also can read the latest music industry sales data like everybody else: digital downloads are, well, down, and streaming is on the rise. It's why Apple just spent $3 billion to buy Beats Audio. Paying for unlimited streaming on any device is the here and now of digital music.
Navigating Prime Music on my iPhone via the Amazon Music app is easy and intuitive, and gives me the option to announce what I'm listening to on Facebook. I'm looking forward to exploring it more, and who knows - it may lead me to purchase or download more music via Amazon's servers at the expense of my iTunes account.
All in all, Amazon now has the foundation to do more with Prime Music. Call it the first movement in what it hopes is a long symphony of business opportunities.