At this point, many, if not most of us, have a music streaming service that we're pretty comfortable with. Whether we're using free, ad-supported versions or paying for a monthly or annual subscription, once we've settled in and started building playlists and letting the algorithms learn from our behaviors to suggest new content, it's pretty dang hard to motivate us to pick up and move to another platform. Of course, that's by design, so what is a streaming service to do to encourage new signups and switchers? It has to add new, innovative, or at least interesting features.
Spotify was one of the first music streaming services to incorporate podcasts into its app, a feature that was eventually adopted by other services like Amazon Music. I've been an Amazon Music subscriber for several years now, in part because I've benefited from its AI getting to know what I like and partly because as a Prime member, I get a nice little discount that saves me nearly $30/year over Spotify.
At first, I was critical of Amazon Music adding new features to its app like podcasts, live Twitch streams, and music videos, but eventually I came to like and even appreciate the feature stuffing — to a point. But when I heard that Amazon Music was going to start selling artist merchandise (merch) in the app, I was sure that I would hate the idea. But you know what? Not only do I not hate this new offering, I think Amazon pulled it off tactfully and tastefully.
Amazon Music Merch on the web
Amazon's website is all about e-commerce, so it's not a terrible shock to find artist merch for sale there. What is new, however, is that you can find it all on a dedicated page called the Amazon Music Artist Merch Shop. This shop features an assortment of products, from t-shirts to hoodies, from collector's edition C.D.s and vinyl records to phone accessories like PopSockets and cases. Heck, you can even get Pink Floyd baby onesies if you are so inclined!
The merch is sorted by genre, product type, and artist, but it's basically just Amazon.com search results once you click through. There is nothing really new here — just a repackaging of existing products (though there are some "Amazon Exclusives").
Amazon Music Merch in the app
The addition of artist merch in the Amazon Music app is still relatively new, which made it all the more (pleasantly) surprising that it wasn't plastered all over the home screen, much like podcasts, videos, and Twitch streams have been. In actuality, Amazon did a really smart thing and buried the merch links on artist sub-pages in the app. In other words, to find an old Queen concert t-shirt or Blackpink tote, you just search for that artist in the app, and then you can scroll down to find links for their associated products.
According to its official press release:
I'm pleasantly surprised to say that Amazon actually seemed to pull it off. It did seamlessly integrate these shopping experiences into its Music app. Even I had to do some deep-diving to find it (partially because I only skimmed the press release at first and didn't pay attention to where the merch was located). Die-hard fans will either hear about it in the press or discover it on their own, but casual listeners or users of the app most likely won't even notice the addition, much less be bothered by it.
I think it would be really cool if, in addition to working with popular artists on Amazon merch exclusives and collaborations (something it is doing now), Amazon could allow up-and-coming and independent artists the option to sell their merch through the app and get a cut of the proceeds. Artists of all stripes rely on merchandise sales at concerts and events for a large portion of their income/revenue, so this could be a win-win situation for everyone — artists, fans, and, of course, Amazon. Particularly during pandemic times when fans aren't able to see their favorite artists in person and spend money on t-shirts and memorabilia, in-app purchases like this could be a great way for artists to augment their income.
As the app and service have continued to evolve, I still choose Amazon Music as my preferred music streaming service and think it's among the best streaming music apps on Android. Not only is it gunning for the top two players in the field in Spotify and Apple Music, it's well-positioned to overtake them at some point.
What do you think?
Does the addition of artist merch in Amazon Music make you any less likely to use the app, or do you think it's a cool secret perk? I'm genuinely curious! Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter @jeramyutgw.
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