Amazon Debuts New Release Notifications for Alexa

Alexa can now tell you when your favorite artist drops a new album. Initially announced in September during the Seattle Amazon Echo hardware event, New Release Notifications are now available for all customers in the US.

This feature works almost exactly as its name suggests. In order to use the feature, say “Alexa, follow <an artist> on Amazon Music” or “Alexa, let me know when <an artist> has new music.” While a song is playing, say “Alexa, follow this artist on Amazon Music” or “Alexa, let me know when this artist has a new album” in order to use the feature without knowing the artist’s name. New Release Notifications are also available on the Amazon Music client for Android, iOS, and web player, just press the “follow” button next to an artist’s name.

Whether accessing through an Echo, phone, or web browser, a notification through Echo speakers will be given when new music from the artists you follow becomes available. If users then ask Alexa to play the music, there might also be a recorded message from the artist.

Relation to Music Skills API

The public launch of Amazon’s Music Skills API preceded the launch of the New Release Notifications by a couple of days. The Music Skills API allows for the creation of a catalog of music to be published as a skill. Amazon says creators of music skills can regularly upload music metadata and Amazon will automatically update the Alexa voice model and grammars used by customers, no need to build a voice user interface. Users of the skill can then stream their choices from a given catalog to any Alexa-enabled device, or use music from a catalog for an alarm. Developers are able to use the Music Skill API to control a user’s experience with skip limits, stream protection, and event metrics. Event metrics cover skill enablement and disablement, account linking, and music playback. The Music Skills API is compatible with the Alexa Skills Kit. The New Release Notifications can also be used with this Music Skills Kit.

Amazon in the Music Streaming Industry

Compared to Spotify and Apple Music, Amazon is a relatively small player in the music streaming world. Voice-commands are what differentiates Amazon from Spotify and Apple Music, but not from Google Play or YouTube Music. There are two music subscription services available with Amazon: Prime Music Service and Amazon Music Unlimited. Prime music includes just 2 million songs and is included with Amazon Prime. Amazon Music Unlimited, however, includes tens of millions of songs. Amazon is currently the 3rd largest music streaming service, Spotify and Apple Music far ahead. However, the ‘Alexa everywhere’ strategy combined with new tools for both developers and users to customize music visually as well as through voice could definitely make Amazon a larger competitor.

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