Amazon Music has become the first of the three major streaming services to offer its library in lossless CD quality, a considerable step up compared to the compressed (or “’lossy”) files of Amazon Music’s normal level.
On September 17th, the digital platform announced the launch of Amazon Music HD. For $14.99 per month or $12.99 per month for Prime members, listeners can enjoy the entire Amazon Music catalog — including YOUR songs, if you’re distributing music through CD Baby — in the FLAC format.
“Hey Alexa, lossless audio please!”
FLAC is an audio codec that enables compression of audio files without any degradation of quality. It works by removing as much information as is required to make a smaller file than a WAV master while still sounding identical to the WAV file. Smaller file sizes mean more files can be stored and – important for streaming – the bandwidth required to play the files online is less than it would be if WAV had been used.
According to Amazon, these FLAC files will have bit rates up to 850 kbps (kilobits per second). The bit rate of an audio file is the unit of measurement for its data-transfer rate, which in turn determines how much information the file is capable of delivering. Files with higher bit rates sound better when listening with audio equipment that can properly recreate the higher quality. In comparison, Apple Music and Spotify (the two other major streaming services) offer music in considerably lower resolution. Apple Music uses Apple’s standard AAC format to stream music at 256 kbps. Spotify uses the OGG format to stream its library at 320 kbps.
What does this mean for CD Baby artists?
If you’re distributing your music to streaming platforms via CD Baby, your music has already been sent to Amazon Music.
When CD Baby sends your songs to our partners, we deliver a FLAC file of the audio you upload, so our partners receive your music in lossless quality. The digital music platforms make their encodes from those lossless files to ensure the highest quality possible for the files they host. This means that Amazon already has the FLAC files CD Baby sent in their database! They’re just using those for Amazon Music HD instead of the 320 kbps files of their normal streaming service.
If your tracks are already distributed to Amazon Music, you don’t need to do anything! Anyone who subscribes to Amazon Music HD can hear your music in sweet lossless quality. If your music is not set up for distribution to streaming platforms and you want to be a part of this service, you can file a ticket with CD Baby to raise your “distribution level” at no charge.