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Steve Boom VP of Amazon Music's Strategy for Domination is Revealing Nothing at TechCrunch

It was great to receive a press pass and attend the Techcrunch Disrupt NYC 2017 conference as a Startup Grind media correspondent.

On the 2nd day Amazon Music Vice President Steve Boom, came to speak with Techcrunch panelist Josh Constine in a fireside chat style talk where he was asked a number of questions regarding;   

  • Will Amazon do for musicians what it did for book authors, democratizing access to an audience willing to pay?

  • Will streaming services have the same disruptive impact on record labels as they did on brick and mortar bookstores, by replacing the physical distribution channels with a convenient but alarmingly centralized repository of products sold online?  

  • How will Amazon Alexa and Echo’s voice search and voice control change music consumption?

  • What differentiates Amazon Music?

  • Will Amazon fund original audio content the way it produces shows for Prime Instant Video?   

  • What is the shifting dynamics of the digital music economy?      

Amazon which is also part of the four horsemen of tech has been optimizing every part of its business with machine learning and software so much that they dominate market share in enterprise cloud storage, eCommerce, Supply chain, same day deliveries, personal assistants etc.     

Like an army on the march, Amazon is marshaling all of its resources to succeed in this goal, and it’s already achieved a whopping  70% market share, according to eMarketer:

So I chose to watch this talk and was hoping for the same reasons that entrepreneurs come to learn from founders at Startup Grind events: are they going to teach us a lesson that could be applicable or will they reveal any tips or clues to new direction or projects they are working.   

Alexa’s voice control and Prime’s subscriber base has made Amazon a real possible contender in music alongside Spotify, Pandora, Apple, and YouTube. The audience was hoping that Steve would shed some insights into what is Amazon’s goal looks like for gaining market share and how it intends to disrupt the very crowded and competitive streaming music space.   

Here are the takeaways of what Steve Boom revealed

He mentioned that people have asked, “since Amazon has a television and film production arm called Amazon Studios, would Amazon ever consider being a studio record label?” His answer was just “No.”   

He also said Amazon has a different perspective on video and the music industry, pointing out that there are several differences between the way people create content, consume it, distribute and market it. He indicated he has respect for the role that traditional record labels play in the consumption of media.

Boom went on to discuss Amazon’s two fundamental core strategies regarding music, which are letting their users find and consume music through Prime and Alexa. Amazon’s sales funnel onboarding process includes moving people who were already streaming music, then moving them further down the sales funnel to convert to its paid service.

Steve Boom said, “and then we find with Echo and Alexa, is bringing people into premium streaming that had never used it before.” He continues, “And because it’s something that you use every day, and it’s so easy, the idea of paying a few bucks a month for a streaming service...you know, when we look at the conversion rates that we have from people using their free trial on an Echo, then converting into premium, we see subscription levels that the industry has never seen before.”  

Last October, Amazon released a full launch of its on-demand streaming music service, called Amazon Music Unlimited, which has three pricing levels;

  • Echo, individual and family, which ranges from $3.99 to $7.99 which are cheaper options than Apple music and Spotify’s paid monthly subscriptions.   

By merging and integrating Amazon music into the Echo and Alexa products, consumers are now able to take advantage and experience communal listening, versus the antisocial environment that the smartphone created (usually tuned out with headphones).

“In the smartphone era, we think of music as moving out of the home and living room,” Boom said. “With voice, it’s moving it back in.”    

Boom did not comment or criticize any of the streaming music space competitors like Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, and Pandora, but did mention that Amazon is still in its infancy of entering the streaming music market. According to Vanity Fair’s latest Global Music Industry report, streaming music just crossed the 100 million paying subscriber threshold.

“It’s literally just a drop in the bucket,” Boom said. “So we think there’s a ton of growth but what we do see is clearly already happening. For music streaming services focused on discovery and playback, it is consolidating around a relatively small number of global platforms and I think that trend is happening and I would expect it to continue to happen.”

He went on to say that while he does think there is room for radio-based services, like Pandora, Boom says on-demand music is “no doubt” the better user experience for people.   

Steve Boom’s takeaways about making a product that will become popular: “if you use it every day and it’s reasonably priced, and the experience is good, then why wouldn’t you pay for it”.

The final question that Josh Constine asked was “So where are the Alexa Headphones?” His response was “I was hoping to see one of the great startups here showing on the floor of this conference called Techcrunch Disrupt.”     

Conclusion    

So I met up Josh Constine for a few minutes at the conference after the talk and told him that it was sort of disappointing that he did not really reveal anything that was groundbreaking as to their industry disruption plans or new products.  

And he also said “ya I know that is the problem with interviewing people that are not the CEO, they are afraid to talk openly and Amazon has always been a very secret and proprietary company,” and continued by saying that “he prefers interviewing CEOs compared to VPs because they have the control to give or reveal more.”  Check out the video to hear it first hand.