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On Thursday, after much speculation, the online retailer launched a streaming service called Prime Music, at no additional cost for Prime members who pay a year.

FIRST LOOK: Amazon Prime Music won't make you cancel Spotify As part of the new no-cost music benefit, Prime members will be able to listen to hundreds of pre-programmed Prime Playlists that are artist-, genre-, mood- or activity-based.

Prime Playlists will typically include 20 to 50 tracks and carry names like Feel Good Country, Playdate with Toddlers, The Heaviest Metal and Hip-Hop for Your Commute.

You can create your own playlists with Prime Music tracks, receive personalized recommendations, and download any of the Prime material to mobile devices so that you can listen offline.

Customers can rate and review playlists, but for now there is no social networking component.

Nor is Amazon doing any kind of custom Internet radio service.

Amazon has actually been in the music business in one form or another for 16 years, dating back to its sales of compact discs, the second category of goods available on Amazon following books.Amazon subsequently made digital downloads available and has a cloud locker service.For .99 a year, music fans can store up to 250,000 tracks, accessible from any device.You can mix Prime Music with your own digital collection to expand your library.By unleashing a streaming service, Amazon's vice president for digital music, Steve Boom, says, "We want to go where our customers are going."It is already where major competitors have gone.Amazon joins a congested field that is only becoming more so, with names such as Spotify, Pandora, Google and, of course, Apple, which recently shelled out .2 billion for Beats.Prime Music will be ad-free and device agnostic, meaning you can listen on Android and i OS phones and tablets, Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablets, plus PCs and Macs.Boom says the quality of the stream will be up to 256-kpbs, but the stream can adapt based on your network connection.But the 1 million songs being made available for free streaming at launch pale compared with the 25 million available for download or purchase through Amazon's online music store, or the more than 20 million tracks available on Spotify.There had been some pre-launch speculation that Amazon would only make songs older than six months available as part of any service.Amazon says there is no such specific time window restriction, though it is unlikely members will have free access to the freshest material.

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