Spotify’s Release Radar and Apple Music’s New Music Mix are high in the minds of music marketers in 2018. They’re figuring out what ‘signals’ (for example: following an artist’s profile and saving their music to your collection) have an impact on the recommendation algorithms for those playlists, and trying to drive fans to do those actions more.

“Rather than asking people to pre-save a release, we’re focusing really hard on growing that artist follow, to play into that Release Radar game,” said Anjunabeats’ Duncan Byrne at our Sandbox Summit conference last week. “Which is having tremendous results for us. You can get that great first-week kick.”

Well, as of this week, there’s another kick to be angling for: on Amazon’s music-streaming services. The company has launched ‘new release notifications’ via its Alexa voice assistant. Fans can ask Alexa to ‘follow’ their favourite artists (or they can follow them via its mobile music app). Encouraging fans to say ‘Alexa, follow Anderson .Paak’ or ‘Alexa, follow Future’ (two of the artists who were promoting the new feature on day one) is the way it works.

“Once a new song, or a new album from that artist drops, customers will receive notifications through a yellow light ring on their Echo device, and through their Amazon Music mobile app for iOS or Android, with the opportunity to listen on demand,” explained Amazon. For now, the feature is only available in the US though.

Explaining to fans how this feature works will be mainly Amazon’s job, but clearly artists and labels will have an incentive to get involved too – while also encouraging fans to follow their Spotify and Apple Music profiles, thumb them up on Pandora, subscribe to them on YouTube and so on. While Amazon didn’t say this explicitly, it’s a fair bet that following an artist via Alexa will also have an impact on the Amazon Music recommendation algorithms, in terms of helping to tune what music gets served up for more-general ‘play me happy music’ style commands.

There’s more news around Alexa and music this week, too: Sony Music UK has launched a dedicated Alexa skill (the voice equivalent of apps’ for pop group Little Mix. It’s called ‘Little Mix AAA’ and is a behind-the-scenes affair based on their new album ‘LM5’.

“In the studio, Jesy, Jade, Perrie & Leigh-Anne give all the behind the scenes info on what it was like recording the album, stories from video shoots, all the details on their style and share personal messages on what their new songs mean to each of them,” explains the blurb. “Requesting to go backstage will give you the chance to join the girls as they travel the world! Here the girls recall their favourite moments across their careers and what they love about being in a band, including everything you could want to know about dance routines, costumes, and shows.”

New content will be added every week, with a quiz thrown in for good measure. Little Mix are the highest-profile artist to get their own Alexa skill yet, following on from Paloma Faith’s ‘Paloma’s Bedtime’ skill earlier this year, which was also launched by Sony Music UK. There is plenty more experimentation to be done with skills, as well as with Alexa’s native music features. If you’re catching up with the world of smart speakers, read our report (published with the BPI and ERA) from this March, or our August primer on the market.

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