Amazon Amp Brings Radio DJs to Music Streaming

This is a seriously good idea from Amazon

Key Takeaways

  • Amazon Amp lets anyone curate and DJ a streaming music show.
  • Amp uses Amazon’s zillions-strong streaming catalog.
  • Music streaming still lacks the human-curation of great radio shows.
Amazon Amp playlist, CRIOYO Radio

Q: How does a music-streaming service set itself apart when all of them have pretty much the same catalog? A: DJs.

Amazon Amp lets you DJ a streaming radio station using Amazon’s streaming music catalog. Think of it as having your own radio station, with near-global reach, and with access to an unlimited supply of records. But it’s not just there to create an endless supply of bad online college radio stations. For instance, it’s possible to take calls from listeners.

“That’s kind of cool,” electronic musician NeuM told Lifewire via forum message. “A way for budding DJ’s to put on their own shows.”

Live and Direct

Whether you use Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, or another music streaming service, the experience is pretty interchangeable. And there’s one thing missing from the experience that you can still (in theory) get with radio: Live programs. Forget for a second that most commercial radio is just a Spotify-style jukebox churning the same old low-royalty “hits” from decades past, and imagine local radio, or even pirate radio from the days before the internet.

Amazon Amp Tefinitely music playlists

Live radio has two things going for it. You have to listen at the same time as everyone else, which makes it an event; you have to tune in or miss it (or tape it). The other is that the DJs are making the selections. And that’s something that is sorely lacking in modern music. Even the human-curated playlists at Apple Music or those from Tidal are still pretty bland and generic.

British listeners of a certain age may remember John Peel. He hosted a nightly show on BBC Radio One for decades, breaking new music and generally playing all kinds of interesting music and noise.

Peel either broke, or popularized in the UK, acts as diverse as Nirvana, Pink Floyd, The Ramones, Joy Division, Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie. You’ve probably heard of a few of those, and Peel brought countless other bands and musicians to a public that would never otherwise have heard them. The point is realizing how important a source of regular, curated new music is.

Totally Amped

Amped isn’t an open radio service by any means, but by taking away the copyright problems for an independent DJ clearing records they want to pay, it does mean that anyone can build an audience. We shouldn’t expect a new John Peel, though—he played a lot of unreleased music delivered to him direct from bands, and that’s not going to happen with Amazon’s streaming, which uses its existing catalog and requires listeners to use a proprietary app.

But it’s easy to imagine finding a DJ you like and tuning in for regular shows. And you can follow shows, just like subscribing to a podcast. Amazon has already signed up Nicki Minaj and her show Queen Radio, previously found on Apple Music, plus many more.

And artists could do promo shows to play and discuss their own music. Or not even bother with music at all.

Amazon Amp Tefinitely DJ playlist profile

“I was also surprised to see that sports and sports-talk is a first-level interest you can indicate. You can list specific sports you’re interested in, just like you can indicate what music genres you like,” says writer and (now) Amp host Tim Carmody on Twitter.

But what if a DJ creates a following? Can they make money? And what happens if they decide to move to another platform? Unless that platform also has the support of a big, pre-licensed library of music and a service like Amp to use it, then they’re out of luck. Meanwhile, Amazon reaps the entire benefit of the arrangement.

A way for budding DJ’s to put on their own shows.

Amp really does look like a fantastic idea, and one which could benefit listeners as much as it benefits Amazon. But like all music streaming, it’s the artists who lose out as middle services take the biggest cut.

Imagine, instead, a kind of Bandcamp radio that worked the same way, only powered by music from musicians who get the majority cut of money from the streams, with links to buy featured tracks. That sounds a lot fairer and probably a lot more sustainable. But for now, I guess we’ll have to make do with Amazon’s Amp—when it launches out of its current invite-only status.

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