Amazon Prime music streaming to limit playback

Amazon's rumored music streaming service could end up limiting how much each Prime subscriber could listen to each track, forcing them to cough up and buy the MP3 if they want further access, insiders claim. The streaming – believed to be Amazon's next addition to its Prime subscription service, which could increase in price from its current $79 per year to as much as $119, the online retailer has warned – would be curtailed after either a set number of plays or a period of time, it's suggested, in an attempt to appease content music-rights holders.

Whispers of the streaming music plan surfaced again last month, with Amazon said at the time to have been playing hardball with content owners around how much it would pay. The retailer was believed to be insisting on far more favorable terms for licensing than, say, Spotify, Pandora, or other alternative music services.

Now, the WSJ's sources suggest, Amazon is offering some carrot along with that stick, in addition to a new approach to licensing.

Rather than the current model, which is to pay rights-holders a small amount per play of a track, Amazon has suggested a "fixed pool" of cash from which they'd be compensated. That fund amounts to anywhere between $20m and $30m depending on which rumor you listen to, the lion's share of which for the main labels and the remainder for independents.

To stop listeners – who would get Amazon music access bundled with their Prime membership, just as the company currently includes access to streaming videos and TV shows – from taking advantage, the retailer has supposedly proposed limits that would eventually force users to buy commonly-played tracks in the more traditional manner. That would not only appease the labels, but help bolster Amazon's coffers too.

Unsurprisingly, not all the labels are happy with Amazon's proposals, and there's chatter that the initial numbers have already been rejected. Nonetheless, some publishers and record companies are said to have been pushing Amazon to include the functionality, keen to help shape the service in their favor.