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Mar 8, 2022

Amazon launches audio app combining music and live conversation

Gordon Reid discusses Amazon

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Amazon.com Inc. is launching a live audio app designed to reinvent radio by letting people become DJs, playing songs and chatting with listeners.

Amp, as the app is called, will be available starting Tuesday on Apple Inc.’s app store. Users will be able to access a music catalog that includes “tens of millions” of songs from Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and independent labels, Amazon said in a release.

The app, which is still in its beta phase, will be invite-only at first and require an access code, which Amazon will give away through a waitlist, on its social channels and in a newsletter. Initial high-profile show creators include Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Big Boi, Travis Barker and Nikita Dragun, a YouTube influencer.

For now, the only way to stream will be through the app. Shows won’t be on Amazon’s Twitch or Alexa-enabled devices at first. An Android version is also not out yet.

“One of the great things about radio is it’s ubiquitously available,” said John Ciancutti, a vice president at Amazon developing the product. “We’re working hard to make Amp better and more widely available.”

A 24-hour team will respond to user reports of bad behavior or problematic conversations. Software will also monitor conversations and flag them if it detects anything requiring a closer look. An algorithm will promote content to users based on their self-assigned interests, the “likes” a show receives and whether a user already follows a creator.

The current focus isn’t on how Amazon can make money from the app, Ciancutti said. There won’t initially be a mechanism for hosts to make money from shows. He said the expansive music catalog is the primary way it’s encouraging creators to join. Amazon’s work with Twitch could be one example of how creators eventually interact with Amp, however. The company inserts ads into shows there, and audience members can donate cash. Amazon takes a cut of both.

The app is launching late in the social audio game. Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms and Spotify’s Greenroom already cater to users, though none make music the main focus. 

Competing for attention and convincing people to download a new app might be difficult. 

“Our North Star is radio,” Ciancutti said, “and they have a 120-year head start.”