TIME Media

Spotify Still Doesn’t Make Any Money

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

Music streaming service lost $80 million in 2013

Music streaming service Spotify likes to crow about how it hands 70% of the revenue it generates right back to artists in the form of royalty payments. Such a massive expense has led the company to be wildly unprofitable in recent years — but Spotify may be slowly crawling its way out of the red.

A new regulatory filing released in Luxembourg shows Spotify had revenues of 747 million euros (around $1 billion) in 2013, up 74% from 2012, according to The New York Times. The startup posted a loss of $80 million, but that was smaller than its $115 million loss in 2012.

Spotify has long claimed that as it gains more users, it will be able to both pay artists more handsomely and begin earning some profits itself. The company’s financial trends indicate that the plan may actually work, assuming they can keep adding new users at a steady clip.

But Spotify’s biggest threat is growing dissatisfaction in the music industry with the service’s free tier, which allows users to listen to Spotify’s entire song library while hearing a few ads in between tunes. It was this free offering that compelled Taylor Swift to remove her catalogue from the streaming service, while a Sony Music executive recently expressed concern that the free version of Spotify might deter people from signing up for paid subscriptions. The new financial figures show why Swift and others are wary of the ad-supported model: Spotify made just $90 million in revenue from its ad business in 2013, less than 10% of its overall revenue. That’s despite the fact that free users outnumber paid users on Spotify by about four to one.

Spotify maintains that many free users are eventually converted into paying customers, so the free offering serves as a valuable gateway. But it’s likely that industry players are going to become increasingly fixated on the growth in paid subscribers instead. That’s where the money is.

TIME Music

Taylor Swift’s Spotify Paycheck Mystery

Photograph by Martin Schoeller for TIME

Spotify and the pop star's record label provide new figures to defend themselves in the battle over profits from the streaming-music service

Read TIME’s full interview with Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift has been paid less than $500,000 in the past 12 months for domestic streaming of her songs, Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Taylor Swift’s record label, the independent Nashville-based Big Machine, told TIME Wednesday.

His statement is the latest salvo in an increasingly heated disagreement between Swift and Spotify. The disagreement has sent ripples through the music industry, with the country’s most successful musician removing her work from an admired new online music model.

According to Borchetta, the actual amount his label has received in return for domestic streams of Swift’s music—$496,044—is drastically smaller than the amount Spotify has suggested the artist receives. That sum represents only a portion of the amount paid out by the streaming service. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said Tuesday that the label for an artist of Swift’s popularity could expect to receive $6 million in the next year from the streaming service as the site’s audience grows. Borchetta said his label had made more from streaming Taylor Swift’s videos on the video site Vevo than it has from putting her music on Spotify.

A Spotify spokesperson told TIME that the total payout for Swift’s streaming over the past 12 months globally was $2 million.

MORE: Spotify CEO “really frustrated” with Taylor Swift

“The more we grow, the more we pay artists, and we’re growing like crazy,” said Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy. “Our users, both free and paid, have grown by more than 50 percent in the last year, which means that the run rate for artists of every level of popularity keeps climbing. And Taylor just put out a great record, so her popularity has grown too. We paid Taylor’s label and publisher roughly half a million dollars in the month before she took her catalog down—without even having 1989 on our service—and that was only going to go up.”

On Nov. 3, Swift pulled her entire catalog from the streaming service, which claims over 50 million users, more than 10 million of whom have paid subscriptions. No artist today can match Swift’s popularity: her new album 1989 has sold nearly 1.7 million copies nationwide in its first two weeks on sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Swift and Borchetta both say that removing her music from Spotify is meant to make a larger point.

“The facts show that the music industry was much better off before Spotify hit these shores,” Borchetta said. “Don’t forget this is for the most successful artist in music today. What about the rest of the artists out there struggling to make a career? Over the last year, what Spotify has paid is the equivalent of less than 50,000 albums sold.”

At first, Spotify asked Swift to come back in a blog post. But after Borchetta said on a radio show on Nov. 7 that he had been hearing from other artists and managers who also want to leave Spotify—country star Jason Aldean just pulled his latest album from the service—Ek posted a broader defense of Spotify’s model. He claims Spotify has paid $2 billion to labels and publishers since its founding in 2008, and says the service, through its mix of paid and ad-supported subscriptions, is replacing revenue the music business had lost to piracy.

This isn’t the first time a major recording artist has tussled with Spotify. In October 2013, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke pulled his solo songs off the site to protest the size of its payouts.

–With reporting by Matt Vella

Read next: Taylor Swift on 1989, Spotify, Her Next Tour and Female Role Models

MONEY

Why Taylor Swift Will Lose Her Battle With Spotify

Taylor Swift performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" in Times Square on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in New York.
Taylor Swift performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" in Times Square on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in New York. Greg Allen—Invision/AP

Taylor Swift has spurned Spotify and rejected the streaming business model. But that's a losing bet.

On Monday, Taylor Swift made headlines by pulling her entire catalogue—save one song—from Spotify’s streaming music service. The move shouldn’t have been a big surprise to anyone following Swift’s previous statements on the music industry. In a much-cited Wall Street Journal op-ed from earlier this year, she blasted Spotify and its ilk for devaluing music.

“Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently,” wrote Swift. “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.”

Unfortunately for Swift, her prediction won’t come true. Streaming music services like Spotify are the future of the industry, and resistance is futile.

Rock and a Hard Place

It’s fitting that Taylor Swift’s new album is titled 1989, because that’s the period Swift likely wishes she lived in. Two years before the advent of the World Wide Web, 1989 would have indeed been a time when music labels had complete control of album pricing and distribution. There was no internet piracy then. The iTunes store, the industry’s previous boogeyman-turned-savior, was more than a decade away. Fans could either pay sticker price for new releases or they could sit by their radios, and most did both. In 2014, the equation could not be more different.

Swift is correct that Spotify’s existence is hurting digital downloads and physical sales. MIDiA Research, an analysis and consulting firm focussed on digital music, finds that 23% of streaming customers used to buy multiple albums a month. Now, instead of handing labels—and artists—multiple payments of $10-plus payments every 30-days, they’re spending just $9.99 on a streaming subscription. In this way, Spotify is costing Swift money.

But that’s really only true if we, like Swift, assume the alternative to Spotify are album sales. That’s false. Instead, Spotify customers spurned by the pop goddess can simply go to YouTube, GrooveShark, SoundCloud, or any number of other on-demand streaming alternatives nearly every teenager is intimately familiar with.

The RIAA reports that streaming services grew 28% in the first-half of 2014 alone and now account for 27% of industry revenue. According to Russ Crupnick, an entertainment analyst at NPD Group, 14- to 34-year-olds—Taylor Swift’s prime demographic—listen to 42% of their music using either on-demand services like Spotify and YouTube or through internet radio services like Pandora.

For labels, the choice is not between Spotify and album sales, but rather between Spotify and a host of less-lucrative streaming options. Artists might only make a fraction of a cent off a Spotify play, but they make even less on YouTube views, and nothing when users of SoundCloud or other similar sites upload songs on their own.

“It’s not piracy anymore,” said Crupnick when asked why most artists choose to work with Spotify. “It’s that you can’t create scarcity. That’s really what it comes down to. Eighty percent of Spotify users are already using [internet radio service] Pandora. I realize you can’t play a whole Taylor Swift album on Pandora, [but] most of the people using these services have access to multiple services. Not on Spotify? Go to iTunes Radio. Not on iTunes? Go to YouTube.”

“If you say ‘hey I don’t want to be on streaming because I sort of object to the way it tastes,’ you’re kind of ignoring where the whole audience is,” adds Crupnick.

And while piracy isn’t a threat right now, that’s mostly because streaming has made paying for music—or at least agreeing to watch some advertising—more attractive than fussing with BitTorrent.

“In some ways, artists have gotten a little bit complacent,” says Mark Mulligan, long-time music industry analyst and co-founder of MIDiA. “As recently as five years ago, artists would be very concerned that if they didn’t license the music they would increase piracy. Everyone has gotten very complacent about the impact of piracy because YouTube has gotten so good at competing with it.” Should the music industry turn against these services, Mulligan warns, the scourge of P2P music sharing could return.

Present vs. Future

All of that said, the fact remains that Swift is a superstar and many of the rules that apply to industry as a whole don’t apply to her—at least not yet. 1989 is on track to break sales records, and its success sans-Spotify shows that at least for the present, it may make sense for particularly big acts to wait a while before releasing a new album for streaming. “Ultimately, Taylor Swift’s music going off Spotify is a short term tactical thing,” Mulligan predicts. “It’s all about selling 1989 and also selling back catalogue.” That’s not a long term strategy, but it can work for her in the here and now.

In the meantime, Mulligan suggests there are ways Spotify and Swift can make up. One thing the service could do is make certain albums available only to premium subscribers for a certain window of time. That could mean more subscription revenue, of which labels get a piece, while also selling albums to that subset of free listeners who decide they can’t wait to hear their favorite band’s latest release.

But as time goes on, and streaming makes up a larger and larger share of music revenue, boycotts like Swift’s will be mostly a thing of the past. In five years “we won’t be having as much of a conversation about buying things,” says Crupnick. “Does Spotify maybe prevent some sales to Walmart or iTunes? We’ll still have that conversation but it will be very whispered.”

Read next: Here’s Why Taylor Swift Pulled Her Music From Spotify

TIME Media

Why Only Taylor Swift Could Leave Spotify

Taylor Swift Performs On ABC's "Good Morning America"
Taylor Swift Performs On ABC's "Good Morning America" at Times Square on October 30, 2014 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images

She operates on a different plane from the rest of the music biz

Taylor Swift’s latest business move matches the retro title of her new album, 1989. The erstwhile country singer has removed her entire music catalogue from Spotify, the world’s largest subscription streaming service. Swift has already been a vocal critic of music streaming, writing in the Wall Street Journal that platforms like Spotify have contributed to the music industry’s ongoing financial decline.

The move may frustrate Swift’s fans, but it will work brilliantly for the singer, at least in the short term. The first-week sales projections for 1989 have climbed steadily, and the album is now expected to have the biggest first-week sales of any album in the U.S. since The Eminem Show in 2002. Keeping her newest LP off of Spotify and other streaming services seems to have driven fans to buy the album outright. But making music available solely on a declining format is a risky strategy that requires a Swift-ian level of clout and influence.

Regardless of 1989’s blockbuster status, music fans are buying fewer albums each year. Total album sales were down more than 7% in 2013, despite a jam-packed year for pop that included releases by Katy Perry, One Direction, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and a surprise LP from Beyonce that practically broke the Internet. The slide worsened in the comparatively quiet first half of 2014 as album sales dipped another 14%, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Taylor Swift blames streaming services for this ongoing decline, but that’s a short-term view of the industry’s financial woes. Album sales have been in freefall since 2000, when Napster made stealing music much simpler than buying it. U.S. album shipments declined from about 13 billion that year to about 4 billion in 2010, the year before Spotify arrived on American shores, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. It’s true that Spotify and other streaming services have caused a decline in digital album sales, but there’s no evidence that records bought via the iTunes Store were ever going to make up for revenue lost from the collapse of the CD market.

The simple fact is young people no longer buy albums as casual entertainment. YouTube, of all places, is the most popular way for teenagers to listen to music. Albums are bought by diehard fans who want to support an artist and casual followers who want to participate in a cultural event. Swift deftly played to both audiences in the runup to 1989, hosting a set of secret listening sessions for her biggest fans around the country and crafting a narrative of creative rebirth around the album that created a curiosity about her new, pop-focused sound. 1989 is the musical equivalent of the Super Bowl—even people who don’t actually care that much about the game will tune in just to be part of the conversation.

But only the biggest of stars can even attempt to make an album release a cultural event, and the strategy doesn’t always pay off. Lady Gaga and Kanye West each had 2013 LPs that explored new soundscapes and were promoted with headline-garnering spectacles, but the albums failed to match the sales of their predecessors. Beyonce’s surprise release was a smash hit by modern standards, partially because it wasn’t streamable on Spotify, but it still hasn’t managed to surpass her first or second albums in sales. Selling records in the digital era is hard, and it’s only going to get harder for people not named Taylor Swift.

For most artists, especially those sandwiched between indie obscurity and mega-stardom, there are no greener pastures to retreat to. These musicians have to follow fans where they are, and that’s on streaming services. Total on-demand music streams on platforms like Spotify and YouTube in the U.S. totalled 70 billion in the first half of 2014, a 42% increase over the previous year, according to Nielsen. Removing music from these services en masse would likely result in the return of rampant piracy on peer-to-peer networks, a practice that was cut in half between 2005 and 2012, according to NPD, years in which we saw the rise of streaming.

Still, Swift alone is so important that Spotify can’t simply let her remain off the service. The company has launched a social media campaign trying to rally Swift fans to compel her to return, but it’s a hollow tactic that appeals to sentiment instead of economics. A better strategy would be providing more evidence that Spotify can generate significant revenue for individual artists or adding more premium features to encourage users to adopt the paid version of the service (Swift’s back catalogue is still available on Beats Music, which is pay-only). It’s possible that Swift’s exodus will force Spotify to retool its business model in a way that’s beneficial to all artists.

But musicians that try to directly mimic Swift’s tactics may be in for a rude awakening. Taylor Swift can bail on Spotify for the same reason the Beatles didn’t put their albums on iTunes until 2010: They can both float above industry headwinds, release their music in the format of their choosing and watch fans follow obediently. Few others have the same luxury.

Read next: Find the Perfect Taylor Swift Lyric for Your Mood

TIME Companies

Get Ready, SoundCloud Users: Ads Are Coming

Lorde performs during Lollapalooza 2014 at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2014 in Chicago.
Lorde performs during Lollapalooza 2014 at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2014 in Chicago. Theo Wargo—Getty Images

But you may soon be able to skip the ads by paying for a subscription

SoundCloud, the popular free music-sharing platform that’s helped artists like Lorde skyrocket to fame, is introducing advertisements to its service.

The company said Thursday that select content creators will be able to authorize playing ads beside their tracks and collect some of the revenue from those ads. The ads will first roll out in the U.S., but they’re expected to appear for international users soon, SoundCloud announced.

Ads mark a big step for the music streaming service, which has struggled to monetize its vast user base that includes some 175 million listeners a month. Until now, the service has earned revenue by charging some of its most active content providers.

SoundCloud Chief Business Officer Jeff Toig told the New York Times that most of SoundCloud’s ad revenue will go to content providers, including Sony/ATV, BMG, the comedy show Funny or Die, and independent rapper GoldLink, for example. SoundCloud has already signed up Red Bull, Jaguar and Comedy Central to run ads on the platform, according to the Times.

But you may soon be able to skip the ads, if you’re willing to pay. The Times reports that, over time, the service plans to roll out subscription plans for listeners who want to skip the ads, much like you can do on Spotify, another music-streaming service.

TIME Companies

Google Buys Music Streaming Service Songza

The music streaming service says its product will remain unchanged, for now

The music streaming service Songza announced Tuesday that it’s being purchased by Google, adding to the tech giant’s already sizable presence in the online music sector.

“We can’t think of a better company to join in our quest to provide the perfect soundtrack for everything you do,” Songza said in a statement. “No immediate changes to Songza are planned, other than making it faster, smarter, and even more fun to use.”

Songza didn’t reveal a purchase price. The New York Post, citing unnamed sources, reported last month that Google was offering about $15 million, far less than the billion-dollar-plus valuations of online music behemoths Spotify and Pandora. Songza streams music in “smart playlists” curated by experts and tailored to an individual users habits.

The acquisition adds to Google’s subscription music service launched in 2013 as well as its ownership of YouTube, already a heavyweight in the online music sector, which the company says will be launching a paid streaming service.

The news comes after Apple’s announcement in May that it would buy Beats Electronics, which sells high-end audio equipment in addition to a music streaming service.

TIME Telecom

Streaming Music Won’t Count Against T-Mobile Data Plans

Wireless carrier T-Mobile will soon begin allowing customers to stream as much music as they want from services like Spotify and iTunes Radio. The company announced Wednesday that it will no longer count music streamed from select services towards customers’ monthly data usage limits.

The services currently included in the program are Pandora, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify and Milk Music. These options comprise about 85 percent of the music streaming traffic on T-Mobile’s network, the company said. Customers can vote via social media on other services they’d like to see included as well.

The move will allow avid music listeners to do considerably more with their monthly data allotment. A person that streams music for 50 minutes a day uses about 1.5 GB of data per month just for that task, according to T-Mobile’s own data calculator. If unchecked, such use can lead to huge overage charges on competing carriers’ networks or throttled speeds on T-Mobile (the carrier eliminated overage charges earlier this year in favor of slowing down service for people who use more than their allotted data).

The new feature has similarities to AT&T’s Sponsored Data plan, which alllows companies to pay AT&T to let customers use apps or websites without eating into their monthly data allotment. Some have said that these concepts violate the ethos of net neutrality, which discourages companies from granting preferential treatment in the way they deliver certain types of data across the Internet — though net neutrality rules have not previously applied to mobile Internet use.

Unlike AT&T’s Sponsored Data program, though, T-Mobile will collect no fees from the streaming services that are granted unlimited streaming.

In addition to lifting data caps on music streaming, T-Mobile also announced a new streaming service of its own, called unRadio. The new, on-demand service, made in partnership with Rhapsody, has a catalog of 20 million songs and no ads. It will be free for T-Mobile subscribers with an unlimited data plan and $4 per month for subscribers with more limited plans.

The new programs are the latest steps in T-Mobile’s “Un-Carrier” initiative, which has introduced several disruptive concepts to the wireless industry, such as the elimination of two-year contracts and international data charges. The cost-cutting measures are making T-Mobile bleed money, but they also helped the carrier gain more new subscribers in the first quarter than AT&T, Verizon and Sprint combined.

TIME Music

YouTube Removing Indie Bands’ Videos Ahead of Streaming Music Launch

Adele - Waxwork Unveiling
Adele's new waxwork is unveiled at Madame Tussauds on July 3, 2013 in London. Fred Duval—FilmMagic/Getty Images

YouTube is deleting certain indie bands' music videos over contractual disputes ahead of a streaming music service launch

Update Wednesday, June 18 at 10:13 a.m.

YouTube may be aiming to become more of a player in the streaming music game, but some indie labels might not be along for the ride.

In the coming days, Google-owned YouTube is planning to begin removing videos from certain independent acts because their labels could not come to an agreement on YouTube’s revamped royalty terms, according to the Financial Times. The dispute means that videos by artists like Adele and the Arctic Monkeys could be removed in certain markets.

The deals with independent labels have been a sticking point in the development of YouTube’s subscription-based music service, which was originally expected to launch early this year. A trade association that represents independent labels issued a public statement in May claiming that YouTube was trying to strong-arm smaller labels into accepting non-negotiable terms that would offer smaller payouts than competing services such as Spotify and Deezer.

YouTube has declined to comment directly on the negotiations, but it has said the new streaming service will generate more revenue for labels and artists. “Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry,” spokesman Matt McLernon said in an emailed statement. “We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year.”

It’s not clear how widespread the video removals will be. Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of content and business operations, told the Financial Times that YouTube has reached deals with about 90 percent of the music industry, including the three major U.S. labels. The remaining labels’ videos will only be removed in the markets where they distribute music—so, for instance, some Adele videos might go offline in the UK, where Adele is signed to independent label XL, but remain available in the U.S., where Adele has a deal with Columbia Records.

YouTube’s new, on-demand paid streaming service is expected to allow users to more easily organize songs by album, listen to songs via YouTube while using other mobile apps and download songs for offline listening. It will enter a crowded market that now also includes Amazon, which launched a music streaming service this week, and Apple, which is buying Beats’ headphone line and music streaming service for $3 billion.

Update: McLernon, the YouTube spokesman, later clarified that the videos in dispute will not be permanently deleted from YouTube in any markets but will instead keep their viewcounts, comments, likes and presence in users’ playlists in case they are later restored.

MONEY online shopping

It Doesn’t Matter That Amazon’s Music Streaming Service Is Lame

listening to bad music
Monalyn Gracia—Corbis

Last week, Amazon introduced Prime Music, a streaming service included in a Prime subscription that scared … absolutely none of the big music streaming competitors.

Within hours of Amazon introducing its music streaming service, Prime Music, the consensus among critics and observers is that the service is … okay.

While Amazon played up the fact that Prime Music has “unlimited, ad-free streaming” and a catalogue of “over a million songs,” anyone and everyone evaluating the service was quick to point out that players in the streaming scene such as Spotify have well over 20 million songs. “It’s hard to tell who is the target audience for Amazon’s service. If it’s a consumer mass market play, there are still some big gaps,” TechCrunch observed, noting that 9 of the current top 10 in the Billboard Top 100 were not available last week via Prime Music streaming.

Businessweek called the service “half-baked,” declaring “there is little reason to believe that Prime Music will lure people away from Spotify or Rdio.” The tech columnist at USA Today agreed: “If you’re already a paying subscriber to Spotify, or huge fan of Pandora, nothing in Amazon’s new Prime Music offering, introduced Thursday, will make you want to switch.”

Prime Music’s reception in the marketplace bears an eerie resemblance to that of another streaming service, which also happens to be an Amazon product. Tech and entertainment writers have long argued that Amazon Prime’s streaming video options were no match to Netflix, which has a far more robust catalogue of TV shows and movies.

When Prime Instant Video was still new, critics bashed its “dismal lack of popular and recent titles.” Likewise, music critic Bob Lefsetz called Prime Music a “disaster” because, among other reasons, there are so many holes in the catalogue it’ll inevitably frustrate subscribers. “Now Bezos wants me to waste time, which nobody has any of, to click around and find the music I want to hear on his service, ultimately being disappointed in a fair share of my efforts?” Lefsetz wrote. “This is not a benefit, this is a DISTRACTION!”

Much of the Prime Music criticism is completely valid. But it probably doesn’t matter. Amazon customers are not only likely to see Prime Music as a benefit, but as the best kind of benefit, one that’s totally free, passed along by those generous benefactors in Seattle. Amazon Prime was born as a two-day delivery service—buy as much as you want on the site and get two-day shipping for $79 annually—and that’s what the average subscriber still thinks he’s paying for. All the extras, including video streaming, some free Kindle ebook rentals, and now, Prime Music, tend to be viewed as just that, as perks or extras.

It’s hard to complain about a service being somewhat subpar when the service being provided is free. Or at least when it feels like the service is free. Of course, you’re paying for the service, via your subscription fee—now $99, up from the original $79—plus all of those purchases you’re making at Amazon. But it still sorta feels free. For that matter, the “free” two-day shipping isn’t really free either; it’s more like a flat prepaid payment of $99 for a year’s worth of shipping.

By bulking up what’s included in the Amazon Prime service package, Amazon is using a tactic out of the storied cable TV bundle playbook. The average pay TV subscriber watches only around 17 channels, yet his package includes 100, 200, perhaps 700 more options. Paying $90 per month for a mere 17 channels sounds like a lot. But when that $90 gives the customer a bundle of 600 channels, it feels like a much better value—even if you never watch 573 of them. Similarly, Amazon Prime members are likely to feel like they’re getting good value for their Prime bundle, even if they rarely or never take advantage of the streaming options and other extras.

Just knowing that these extras are part of the package helps convince some consumers that a Prime membership is worthwhile. And if they actually use those streaming options for hours and hours, week in, week out? That works out well for Amazon too, because the more time spent on the site, the more likely a subscriber is to be tempted into making purchases. And the more likely a subscriber is to feel that an Amazon Prime membership is an absolute essential. Subscribers will only head more in that direction as Prime Music adds to its song list, which is sure to happen in the same way that Prime Instant Video has expanded its catalogue, adding HBO shows like “The Sopranos” in April.

And hey, remember, it’s all free for Prime subscribers!

TIME

Surprise! Amazon Launches Streaming Music Service

Like a ninja in a library, Amazon has quietly launched Prime Music, a streaming music service similar to Spotify, Rdio and others.

If you’re a $99-per-year Prime member, you’ll have unlimited access to north of a million songs, which makes Amazon’s library far smaller than its competitors’ libraries. Spotify, for instance, boasts over 20 million songs.

But this is another added nicety for Prime subscribers, who, for $99 a year, get free two-day shipping on a bunch of Amazon products, a free Netflix-like video service, a handful of freely borrow-able Kindle ebooks and now, free music to boot.

The fact that Prime Music was launched without much fanfare likely means that Amazon isn’t looking to try to lure people away from competitors — not yet, anyway. If the company builds up the music catalog in the coming months, however, it could serve as an interesting underdog.

As for what you actually get with Prime Music, there are no ads and you can listen to as many songs as you like. Songs can be downloaded for offline listening, though you’ll have to listen to them through Amazon’s music app, which is available on most popular tablet, smartphone, web and computer platforms. Here’s a list of available songs.

Amazon is expected to launch its own smartphone on June 18, so we’ll see how much the company’s new music service plays into the phone’s launch.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser