(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

While music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music proudly advertise catalogs of tens of millions of songs, the sheer depth of these libraries can be intimidating. We wouldn't blame you if you just stuck to the playlists curated by the services themselves, or a handful of a few albums you like. But if you're a fan of discovering new tunes, Amazon now offers a new way to navigate the jungle -- by having a chat with its Alexa virtual assistant.

Today, Amazon Music (Android, iOS) is getting an upgrade of its pre-existing Alexa integration, and she can now ask you several introductory questions about your tastes to generate a playlist of tracks that are based on your answers. And that's just the beginning; the company paints a picture in which the hands-free version of Amazon Music may actually be more capable than the mobile app or web app.

SEE: Apple Music to get Amazon Echo and Alexa support in time for the holidays

When you say "Alexa, play music" when speaking to the app or an Echo device, she will now prompt you for context, like what the occasion is and what mood you want to set. Amazon says that an imminent additional update will also work with "Alexa, recommend some new music."

With the update that's already rolling out, you can tailor what this new music playlist will look like by voting up or down on the songs that she plays for you. You can say, "Alexa, I don't like this" or "Alexa, I like this song," and that info will be used to tailor future recommendations. You can also say, "Alexa, play music I like," and she will assemble a playlist containing the songs that you've explicitly voted in favor of.

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How does this compare to other music streaming services?

Right now, you can use voice commands with Siri or the Google Assistant (Android, iOS) to play specific songs, artists, albums, and playlists in the music streaming apps that are installed on your phone or tablet. But Amazon is taking it a step further by putting its virtual assistant inside the app itself and giving it natural conversation interactions to tailor the content to your tastes.

Taking a voice-activated virtual assistant this far also has the potential to make these services easier to use for users who are not app-savvy, or for people with physical handicaps or vision impairments. If you can sidestep physical interaction with an app, the barrier to entry can be much lower, which can lead to more and happier customers.

However, YouTube Music (Android, iOS) definitely has the resources to integrate the Google Assistant, and Siri could get smarter with Apple Music. So Amazon Music's latest upgrade may not last for long.

If you want to check out the changes for yourself, the company is currently offering Amazon Music Unlimited for 99 cents a month, for the first three months. This is its direct competitor to Spotify, but the regular price is $7.99 for Prime members, instead of the usual $9.99. You can also get an annual subscription for $79, which works out to $6.58 per month, and they offer an Echo-only option for $3.99 per month, plus family plans.

If you're an Amazon Prime member who doesn't have a Music Unlimited subscription, you still get Prime Music at no additional cost. The Prime Music catalog has around two million tracks, which is relatively modest compared to Spotify or Pandora. But unlike its competitors, Prime Music is ad-free, and you have unlimited skips.

Takeaways

  • Amazon Music users can now converse with company's Alexa virtual assistant to personalize playlists, discover new tunes, and identify specific songs you like and don't like.
  • In another update coming soon, you'll be able to ask Alexa to generate a playlist of recommended tunes based on your past interactions with the service.

See also

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.