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Apple has live radio in the form of its Apple Radio network. Spotify has live audio in the form of its Spotify Greenroom app. Now Amazon has unveiled Amp, a live radio app where anyone can sign up to create a station.

It’s out today as an iOS app in the US in what Amazon is describing as a “limited access” launch, for which people will need an access code.

Artists including Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Tinashe, Lindsey Stirling, Travis Barker, Lil Yachty and Big Boi are among the artists launching shows on Amp, alongside a smattering of US radio hosts and journalists.

However, the app will let anyone create their own station and broadcast shows including music, courtesy of licensing deals with all three major labels as well as independents including Beggars Group, and distributors including Believe, CD Baby and PIAS.

Amazon says that hosts will be able to create shows; invite people to call in live; have their followers within Amp notified when they start broadcasting; and schedule their shows. Alexa integrations are on the horizon too.

“This limited-access beta will allow us to partner with passionate early adopters in a diverse community of creators, so we can improve the experience and better serve everyone when the app officially launches,” said John Ciancutti, VP of Amp.

He joined the company in 2021 from Google, where he had held roles that included the company’s audio news and podcast products. Before that, he was the co-founder and CEO of 60dB, a short-form audio app.

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Today’s news isn’t an enormous shock. In August 2021, news site Axios reported that Amazon was “investing heavily in a new live audio feature that’s similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify’s new live audio platform”.

Then, in October, the Techstars Music accelerator announced that its director Jen Hall was “starting a new music & audio company inside Amazon”. It’s unclear whether that is Amp, or something else.

However, later that month The Verge reported that Amazon was working on ‘Project Mic’, an app that “gives anyone the ability to make and distribute a live radio show, complete with music”. That most certainly is Amp.

As we noted then, the idea of ‘user-generated radio’ isn’t new. Obviously, it goes back to the first pirate radio stations, but in the streaming era there are also forerunners to what Amazon is doing with Amp.

Startup Stationhead launched exactly this idea in 2017, cleverly connecting its app to people’s Spotify and Apple Music accounts, so that the actual music streamed from those services – and thus generated royalties for rightsholders and musicians.

More recently, in 2020, Spotify debuted its ‘Shows with Music’ format. It’s not live radio, but rather pre-recorded music podcasts, into which the hosts can insert music from Spotify’s catalogue. Again, each individual listener’s streams generate royalties.

Amazon has not yet said how Amp will work in terms of royalties for rightsholders and musicians, other than to announce its initial list of licensors. However, it has published some information about how the music can be used by shows.

Broadcasters cannot play more than two songs from the same album or more than three songs from the same artist within any three-hour period, and they can’t base their show around listener requests.

They can’t repeat any song more than one time or play a full song until they have at least one listener, and they can’t publish or announce song titles or artist names in advance of their shows – including not announcing that a song is being played “until just before the song is played”.

Interestingly, they can play music from outside Amp’s library if they want to, but Amazon warns them that “you’re responsible for obtaining any rights needed to share that music on Amp”.

For the moment, broadcasters on Amp are not making money from the app.

“Amp is in Beta and currently does not provide creator monetization tools. However, we are dedicated to helping provide opportunities for creators to earn money,” explains its FAQ. “We hope to introduce monetization opportunities on our service in the future.”

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