Have audiophile music streaming platforms given Amazon Music a road-map to improve their #3 position as one of the top three music streaming giants?
RALEIGH, NC (PTA) — Amazon launched a new tier for their popular music streaming platform today, called Amazon Music HD. This new Hi-Res music streaming tier is priced at $12.99 per month USD for Amazon Prime members, and $14.99 for non-Prime members. The new Amazon Music HD tier can be added to an existing Amazon Music subscription (individual or family plan) for an additional $5 per month USD. The new Hi-Res streaming platform is eligible for a 90-day-free-trial at launch, and includes both streaming and download options in HD.
Amazon Music HD provides its users access to over 50 Million songs in HD, which is designated as CD quality 16-bit / 44.1kHz FLAC. Additionally, included are “millions more” tracks available in Ultra HD designated as 24-bit / up to 192 kHz FLAC.
The move to higher-resolution audio at additional cost, has been something we audiophiles have predicted with the maturation of music-streaming and growth of wide-spread internet data. The choice Amazon has made to use the HD and Ultra HD nomenclature for their new streaming tier will definitely help the masses comprehend the idea of a what Hi-Res music streaming service is.
This move by Amazon is a first among the “big three” players in the music streaming industry. Services like Apple Music and Spotify, who make up the uppermost two of the “big three” may follow suit if this move by Amazon changes their rank among the big three in number of subscriptions, and the cost of doing so makes sense for their existing infrastructure. Admittedly, Amazon has the largest existing infrastructure and diversity, that it’s almost surprising they haven’t done this sooner, as the risk in the Music HD tier will have little effect on Amazon’s bottom line even if it does flop.
Existing streaming platforms such Tidal and Qobuz have grown to be the major players in the hi-res music-streaming marketplace. Catering to audiophile crowds more effectively as that is (and has been) seen as their dedicated market. The question then becomes, will Amazon Music HD lure audiophiles away from Tidal and Qobuz for the convenience and lower cost factors, or will audiophiles continue to subscribe to Tidal and Qobuz as the platforms will likely continue to better serve the audiophile community and support audiophile culture overall. Specifically Qobuz, as the company’s participation as a show sponsor to most of the major audiophile audio shows such as the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Axpona – Audio Expo North America, Capital Audiofest, the Florida Audio Expo, The Home Entertainment Show, and HeadFi‘s own Can Jam has not gone unnoticed.
Does the existence of a mass-market Hi-Res music streaming platform mean that Amazon Music HD might find itself in new partnerships with audiophile component manufacturers? Could this even mean that Amazon as a retailer would also invest in becoming the go-to retailer for newcomers seeking out more capable audio playback devices like Digital-to-Analog Converters, Amplifiers, Speakers, etc? Again — only time will tell.
UPDATE: I reached out to Qobuz’ own David Solomon and Dan Mackta for thoughts on the move by Amazon to enter the Hi-Res streaming market with their own Music HD service, and their thoughts were almost entirely aligned with my own.
“The increased awareness of higher resolution music streaming will rise all ships. It’s only a matter of cost-based decision making by the subscribers of all platforms as to how it will all play out. In the end, hi-res streaming was an eventuality that required no crystal ball to see, and will be a marked improvement to the culture of music as a whole.” [paraphrased]