On many levels, Amazon has already proven its worth in shaking up the music streaming business – not least because it offers the most diversified selection of subscription tiers to consumers. It also made headlines last year by propelling Ellie Goulding’s Amazon-exclusive (a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’) to the top of the UK charts, revealing what it can do when it really gets behind a track or an artist.
With 55m subscribers as of January 2020, the third-biggest streaming service globally has now finally launched its Amazon Music for Artists insights and data app for iOS and Android. A desktop version will follow.
For the launch of this artist analytics backend, Amazon has exclusively partnered with distributor CD Baby to provide its artists with expedited access to the platform.
Having one partner for the launch will help the company to snag issues so they can quickly evolve the platform and make it more widely accessible. For labels who do not yet have access, they will need to contact their label relations person at Amazon to get this additional data to sit alongside the analytics they are already receiving from Amazon. In parallel with the app, Amazon has created a website that explains how the most important tools within the Amazon Music ecosystem work and how to use them to grow an artist’s audience on the platform.
The app itself features five tabs, with the user being able to look into data for the last 24 hours, the last seven days, the last 28 days or use a custom date filter for any period since 1st January 2018.
It should be noted that Amazon’s data is effectively being delivered in real-time, updating every couple of minutes.
Some of the tabs are familiar from other DSPs’ data offerings, such as Overview or Songs, giving quick stats into listeners and streams that can be viewed for individual albums and tracks. The Programming tab is akin to the Playlist tab on other services and finally allows any artist to see when they’ve been added to an editorial playlist on Amazon Music.
Although Spotify is still the only big Western DSP offering a direct pitching tool, knowing where an artist has been playlisted on other services helps to provide a more complete picture and certainly helps to offer an alternative to the heavy focus on Spotify that many independent artists have.
The Fans tab, however, is a bit more revolutionary in that it shows the overall listener number for the artist but then breaks it down into ‘fans’ and ‘superfans’. With its own methodology, Amazon takes into account factors such as how often a fan listens to the artist, how long they listen for and whether or not they follow the artist on Amazon Music or via Alexa.
By doing this, Amazon is effectively the first DSP to help artists, managers and labels understand the quality of a stream – although Deezer’s VP of artist marketing told Music Ally in February that it is also working on its own ‘fan algorithm’.
While editorial playlisting can drive up the stream count for many artists to the extent that they feel they have a solid fanbase, this can sometimes be misleading and is no indication of how many of those listens translate into actual fandom that could be further monetised.
The app currently only lets artists see these figures to understand the ratio between listeners, fans and superfans; but this feature has the potential to be combined with marketing tools that allow artists to reach and communicate with these fans, something that’s already being explored by other streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora.
Kevin Breuner, CD Baby’s VP of marketing, adds, “[Artists and the industry alike are] so hyper-focused on Spotify that a lot of people haven’t realised what segment of their fanbase is actually streaming on Amazon. That, for me, was a big realisation with this app – that Amazon has actually edged out Apple Music as the number two streaming service that Small Town Poets [his act] fans listen to music on.”
The centrepiece of Amazon’s app, though, is its tab dedicated to voice. This provides data for the amount of ‘requests’ and ‘requestors’ accessing the artist’s music via voice command – so via Amazon’s market-leading smart speakers or other Alexa-enabled devices. That means people who have explicitly asked Alexa to play that specific artist or their specific albums or tracks.
Breuner says, “This data shows they clearly know your name, know your song titles. If someone’s saying, ‘Play that song’, something else is prompting that. Some of the questions I have as a marketer relate to what prompted them to say that. Did they see a Facebook ad? That’s a piece on the marketing side that we have to figure out once this becomes very common. Will a call-to-action soon just be saying something instead of clicking somewhere?”
These voice insights are not only interesting from an individual artist’s standpoint; collectively it is the first time that Amazon has allowed the music industry to get a sense of how passive music consumption on smart speakers really is. Besides the number of requests, a Daily Voice Index compares the volume of voice requests of the artists compared to other artists of a similar popularity on Amazon Music. The sliding scale moves from Cool to Warm to Hot to On Fire. The scale can thus provide actionable insights. For an artist on the cooler end of the scale, it might be worth planning initiatives to grow engagement via Alexa – e.g. via educating their fans on social media that they can request their music via voice.
Breuner has looked into the data of his own band, Small Town Poets, on the voice tab. “I thought it was interesting because they break it down,” he explains. “I thought they were just throwing voice into one big pile similar to Apple Music’s Shazams, not separating it out into anything more meaningful. They’re actually separating it out into people asking for artist name, song name, album name – even for lyrics. My first thought was that lyrics are going to become more important in the future, when more and more people will request music like, ‘Hey, play the song that goes like this…’ as they know the hook.”
Amazon has a lyric-matching feature, thanks to licensed lyrics from LyricFind and MusixMatch. While the former has licences with over 5k publishers and PROs worldwide, MusixMatch has its own deals with over 10k publishers as well as direct relations with artists – and any artist can easily sign up to upload their lyrics (which is key to discovery on voice).
Regarding the issues connected with voice technology for music, many have noted how pronunciation can be a challenge. Breuner hopes that at some point soon artists will be able to report back to Amazon directly within the app about alternative pronunciations in order to help better surface their music.
Amazon has noted that this incarnation of Amazon Music for Artists is very much V1.0, so we can expect more features and functionalities to become available in the near future, especially against the backdrop of how Amazon integrates insights into the different ways of how people are engaging with music.
Breuner is bullish about Amazon’s future within music streaming, pointing to one of its biggest opportunities. “They have your fans listed,” he says. “From our understanding, those are people who have engaged with physical products in a way. They’re positioned to be the ultimate streaming platform that actually drives real revenue for artists.”
He adds, “When someone is listening, within one click they can buy the artist’s latest T-shirt, CD or vinyl album and get it shipped to them. People already have their credit cards in there, so it’s a simple way to convert streaming activity into streaming revenue. It’s still a long way to go, but Amazon is really poised to serve the industry.”