Amazon offers free music streaming with Prime, a paid music service for an additional monthly fee, direct MP3 sales, a way to get MP3s when you purchase audio CDs, and a music locker you can upload your own songs to. That’s a lot to keep track of! Here are all of Amazon’s confusing music services, explained.

Prime Music: Free Streaming With Amazon Prime

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If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you have access to Prime Music for no additional fee. Prime Music offers over two million songs you can stream without any advertisements. It’s a bit like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music All Access, and similar services. It’s just less expensive and has a much smaller catalog.

You can play this music from Amazon Music in your web browser, on the Amazon Music app for iPhoneAndroid, Fire devices, or the desktop, or by telling Alexa to play it on an Amazon Echo. You’ll be able to search the free selections of songs and listen to radio stations from here.

(Your Amazon Prime subscription also provides you with free access to “original audio series” via Audible Channels. The rest of Audible is a separate audiobook store owned by Amazon.)

Amazon Music Unlimited: A Larger Streaming Library for a Monthly Fee

Amazon Music Unlimited is Amazon’s real competitor to services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music All Access. You get a much larger catalog of unlimited, ad-free streaming music than the one included with Prime Music. Amazon claims the catalog has tens of millions of songs, and it should be similar to other music streaming services.

To get this additional music, you have to pay an additional fee. Multiple plans are available:

  • Echo Plan: Access to Amazon Music Unlimited via Alexa on a single Amazon Echo, Dot, or Tap will cost you $3.99 a month.
  • Individual Plan: A Prime member can pay either $7.99 a month or $79 per year to gain access to Amazon Music Unlimited. This enables access on all your devices, including web browsers and smartphones. You’d have to pay $9.99 per month if you’re not a Prime Member.
  • Family Plan: Amazon also sells a family plan for $14.99 a month or $149 per year. Up to six family members will gain access to Amazon Music Unlimited on all their devices.

There’s also a free 30-day trial, so you can try it out without paying anything.

To subscribe or see more information, head to Amazon’s Music Unlimited website. You’ll then be able to access much more music on the Amazon Music website and in the associated app.

Amazon Digital Music Store: Buy MP3s for Your Local Collection

You don’t have to use Amazon’s unlimited music streaming services. You can choose to buy your music the old-fashioned way—or at least the old-fashioned online way—by buying individual MP3s or albums of MP3s from the Amazon Store. Some music is only available for purchase and isn’t offered as part of their streaming services. That choice is up to the music artist or their label.

Search Amazon’s digital music store and find MP3s you want to buy. It will often be cheaper to buy an entire album at once than MP3s of all the songs in it one by one, but you can also choose to buy individual songs from an album.

Those MP3s will also appear in your Amazon streaming library, if you’re a subscriber. If you ever want to re-download them, just head to the Purchased Music section of your Amazon Music library.

Auto-Rip: Buy Physical CDs and Get the MP3s, Too

If you only buy digital music, you may not have seen Amazon’s “Auto-Rip” feature. But if you buy physical CDs from Amazon, they’ll often throw in a free digital MP3 copy.

If a physical audio CD advertises the “Auto-Rip” feature on its store page, you’ll get both the physical disc and digital MP3 copies from Amazon.

For example, Amazon is currently selling the MP3 version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 for $11.49. The physical copy is $12.29, but includes Amazon Auto-Rip. That means that, for an additional 80 cents, you can immediately get the MP3s and have Amazon mail you the physical CD for your collection.

The MP3s will be stored in the Purchased Music section of your Amazon Music library online. You can access them from anywhere and re-download them in the future.

Not every album offers Auto-Rip, so be sure to check the storage page for the album before purchasing it. Auto-Rip is included with vinyl copies of some albums, too.

Amazon Cloud Music Library: Upload and Stream Up to 250 Songs

Update: Unfortunately, Amazon is shutting this service down on January 15, 2018. But if you upload your music now, it will stay available for streaming until January 2019, so do it now!

You don’t have to purchase new music to get it into your Amazon Music library. Amazon allows you to upload up to 250 songs to your Cloud Music library, so you can stream them anywhere. Songs you purchase from Amazon don’t count toward that limit, though, which is nice—and makes sense, since Amazon would rather you purchase music.

To use this feature, visit the Amazon Music website, click the “Upload music to your cloud library” link in the sidebar, and download the Amazon Music application for your PC or Mac. Install the application and sign in with your Amazon account. Click the “My Music” category in the heading and select “Uploaded” in the sidebar. You can either drag and drop music onto the window from here or click the “Upload” action at the right side of the window and select music you want to upload.

Any songs you upload will appear in your Amazon Music Library alongside any purchased songs.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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