Amazon's 100 Million Song Shuffle Is Like Radio, Only Way Better

No talking, and no ads

  • Amazon Prime members can now stream the entire Amazon Music catalog, but only via shuffle. 
  • You can shuffle by artist, playlist, and album. 
  • With music playing in the background, who cares what order the tracks are in?
A green old-timey radio sitting on the green back seat of an older model car.

Milivoj Kuhar / Unsplash

Amazon's entire music-streaming catalog is now open to Prime subscribers, but there's a catch.

If you like shuffling your music, and subscribe to Amazon Prime, then there's good news. You can now hit play and enjoy randomness without paying any extra. And it's not all bad. You won't just get a totally random song from that 100 million-strong catalog. Instead, you can shuffle by artist, playlist, or even album, which is not a bad offer. 

"If you tend to listen to music like a typical radio consumer where you don't get to necessarily pick the individual tracks or albums you want to listen to, Amazon might be a great option. The added benefit is that there are no ads with Amazon, so you can listen without interruption," Dr. Brandon Elliott, Professor of Music and Music Business at Moorpark College, told Lifewire via email.


It’s an interesting idea from Amazon VP Steve Boom. Make the music free—all of it—and sell the UI for listening to it. Listen to anything for as long as you like, but if you want to control which songs you are listening to, you have to pay. It sounds a little cynical when put like that, but it has a lot in common with the way radio works, only without the ads, and all the hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s (unless you choose those, I guess). 

"Every music consumer has unique requirements, and the Amazon Shuffle Only option is ideal for those who want to stream music without making any specific song selections. It is great for those who wish to have music on without a criteria or simply for music to play in the background," James Dyble, managing director of Global Sound Group, told Lifewire via email. "However, it will also be of great use to anyone interested in discovering new music on the fly. But, it is not the greatest option for people who want more granular control over the streaming of their music."

A smart speaker in a kitchen with someone chopping vegetables in the background.

visualspace / Getty Images

Music has become more of a backdrop to other activities, and this kind of setup fits that very well. But there's another part to this: What about the musicians?

Won't You Please Think of the Musicians?

We know that musicians get a raw deal from music streaming services. Even the 'good' ones like Apple and Tidal still only pay a cent every time a song is played. Amazon's new unlimited shuffle product won't change that, but neither will it make things much worse. 

"For music creators, mechanical royalties from the Amazon Music platform are comparable to other popular platforms, subject to very small differences. For example, for every 1,000 streams, Amazon Music would pay approximately $4.26, whereas Spotify would pay approximately $3.48," says Dr. Elliott 

In fact, the shuffling nature of this option might actually open people up to different artists, away from the big names and into the depths of the catalog. It all depends on how shuffley the shuffle is. Streaming services might cite discoverability as one of their benefits—they all have some kind of music-recommendation algorithm—but Amazon's shuffling Prime service is much more like the radio of old. You don't really know what you're getting. 

This makes me wish for a whole-catalog shuffle on Apple Music or Spotify, a way to hear new music, instead of Apple Music's poor algorithmically chosen New Music mix.

Closeup on a DJ using sound equipment in a dark environment.

Marcela Laskoski / Unsplash

And why stop here? There must be plenty of ways to present music when your streaming catalog includes pretty much every song around. We already have shared playlists that people can follow, but how about DJs who do what old-school DJs did, digging out gems and presenting them in a show?

Imagine that Apple, for instance, made it possible for anyone to create a live DJ show, where the host would effectively be remote-playing songs on listeners' computers. It could be live or available on demand, but the result could be something like the amazing John Peel, a BBC Radio 1 DJ who discovered and shared every kind of music. 

We'll never see another John Peel, but music streaming could at least try to come up with some different ways for us to find new music and perhaps connect with the musicians that make it all possible.

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