Publication date: 8/31/17 – Ever since Amazon launched Alexa Multi-room Music earlier this week, online discussion groups have been abuzz with conflicting reports about limitations on running simultaneous streams from various sources of Amazon Music: playing the same song, album or playlist on multiple Alexa devices simultaneously. Tonight I did some testing and research, and I’m back to report on how many Amazon Music simultaneous streams will currently work under various Amazon Music services.
As always, I must warn my UK readers that since I’m US-based I can’t test how things are in the UK. Your mileage may vary from what’s reported here.
Caveat: the information in this post is accurate as of this writing, but subject to change at any time in the future according to Amazon’s changes in policy or functionality.
If you call Amazon customer service they will tell you it’s only possible to stream Prime Music content to a single device, that it’s not possible to play Prime Music on multiple devices registered to the same Amazon account simultaneously. There’s even a warning message you’ll hear from Alexa if you start playing Prime Music on one Alexa device, then request the same or different Prime Music on a different device without stopping the first one. But customer service is wrong.
I just tested with a Prime song I do not own: Shania Twain’s Man I Feel Like A Woman. Since I’m not an Unlimited subscriber, the only source for it on my devices would be Prime Music (I wasn’t using Pandora, iHeartRadio, etc.). I set up an Alexa Multi-room Group and added two devices to it: an Echo and a Show. This left two other Alexa devices in my home outside the group: an Echo and a Dot.
I started the test song playing in the Multi-room Group. Once it was going, I went to my third (non-group) device and requested the same song. I got a warning from Alexa along the lines of, “Amazon Music is playing on another device. Would you like to stream from here instead?” and answered “yes”. The song started on the third device, but kept playing on the two Group devices (synced to one another, but not the third device) as well. Then I went to my fourth device and repeated the process – same result. I got the message, answered “yes”, the song started on device 4 but kept playing on all of the other three.
Next I deleted the Alexa Multi-room Music group and repeated the test with the four devices individually. Same result. I got the Prime song to play on all four devices despite having heard the warning message three times and answering “yes” to it all three times—though of course, the music playback was not synced up across the devices.
Here’s the thing: I think this is a programmatic loophole, and you’re really not supposed to be able to listen to multiple Prime Music streams simultaneously. Something probably fell through the cracks when Amazon went to add Multi-room to an already crowded and complex Amazon Music ecosystem, with all the different Amazon and outside streaming sources, each with their own licensing terms and limitations. Playing multiple Prime streams works right now, but probably won’t forever because I don’t think that’s how Amazon wants it to work and it’s not how their written policies say it should work.
Side note – In my research tonight I discovered that Amazon has changed the terms for its Prime Household sharing feature, and Prime Music is now one of the things that’s explicitly excluded when you share your Prime membership with a Household member.
Second side note: one user reports that adding Prime tracks to your personal Amazon Music Library playlists will definitely invoke the one-stream-only limitation when it comes to those playlists.
Personal Amazon Music Library
Customer service reps are telling people the single-stream limitation applies to users’ personal Amazon Music Libraries too, but my own tests and Amazon’s written policies don’t bear that out. Amazon’s policy explicitly states you can authorize up to ten devices to use your Amazon Music Library content, and there are no stated limitations on simultaneous playback across those ten authorized devices.
I was able to play different playlists from my personal Amazon Music Library to multiple, un-grouped Alexa devices simultaneously, and even the same playlist simultaneously. I was also able to sync playback of my Library content by creating an Alexa Multi-room Music group and directing the playback command to the group.
As I would expect, music you own and add to your personal Amazon Music Library appears to have the least limitations on accessibility and playback.
Amazon Music Unlimited
Here I can only speak to Amazon’s written policies, because I don’t subscribe to AMU. The policies are clear and reasonable enough though.
1. AMU Single Device (aka Echo) Plan: NO Multiple Streams – For $3.99/mo (as of this writing) you can get the special single-device plan. As the title implies, this allows you to stream AMU content to a specific, single Alexa device. You have to specify that device when you subscribe, and the plan can only be registered to a single device at a time. You can’t stop AMU playback on that device and then start it on a different device in your household: this AMU option only makes AMU content available to the single device you specify at signup.
Some people have wrongly believed their single device plan granted them rights to stream AMU content to all their devices because by default every AMU subscription, regardless of the option you choose, begins with a 30-day free trial of the full-featured Amazon Music Unlimited. Once the 30 day trial period is over, you will be limited to the single device you specified at the time of signup. It’s possible to opt out of the 30 day free trial and just start paying right from the first day, in which case you’d have the single device limitation from the start, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it.
2. AMU Individual Plan: Accessible To All Your Devices, But Multiple Streams Via Alexa Multi-Room Only – As the name implies, this plan is intended for use by one, individual person. It makes AMU content accessible to all of the devices that individual owns that can run the Amazon Music app, but you only get to listen to one of them at a time. For the individual who wants to fill the whole home with their music, Amazon now offers Alexa Multi-room Music and that should cover all the bases for a single person.
Given that an individual person can only be in one place at one time and listen to one source of music at one time (assuming he or she doesn’t want a headache or cacophony), it doesn’t seem so unreasonable to me that outside of Alexa Multi-room Music, Amazon does not allow multiple, simultaneous streams of AMU to different devices under this plan.
If an individual is truly the only person using the AMU Individual plan, this is more than adequate. But some people are complaining that the no-simultaneous-streams limitation on this version of AMU is Amazon’s way of “forcing” them onto the higher-priced AMU Family Plan. Actually, it’s Amazon’s way of preventing people who should sign up for the AMU Family Plan from cheating and signing up for the Individual plan, even though they intend to share it with a spouse or multiple household members. Speaking of which…
3. AMU Family Plan: Six Simultaneous Streams Allowed – If more than one person in your household will be using your AMU account, then the AMU Family Plan is the account you’re supposed to get. Just be an adult about it, pay the extra money, and enjoy all that sweet, sweet AMU content and simultaneous streaming with a clear conscience.
US readers, click here for the US Amazon Music Unlimited FAQ.
UK readers, click here for the UK Amazon Music Unlimited FAQ.