One of the things that annoyed many Amazon Echo owners in the past is that you could ask Alexa to play music, but only if you were a paid subscriber to Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, Spotify, or another streaming service. other online.
While some of them – Spotify in particular – have a free tier, that’s not supported on smart speakers.
Luckily, things have changed and you can now listen to Spotify and Amazon’s own free ad-supported music service. (Apple has said there will never be a free tier, so unfortunately Apple Music will always be limited to Alexa unless you pay for it.)
In addition to streaming services, there are other options for listening to music, such as radio stations and podcasts.
Here’s what you need to know about using Alexa to stream free music and the limitations you may face.
How to Link Music Services to Alexa
This is the same basic procedure for using any of the services mentioned here.
- Open the Alexa app and tap More
- Click Install
- Scroll down and tap Music & Podcasts
- Tap the service you want to use (these will vary by country) and then follow the instructions to enable or ‘launch’ the service
Linking a service usually involves entering your username and password for the service, which means you’ll need to set up an account. However, not all require an account, such as a radio player.
Free Spotify on Alexa
If you use Spotify’s free tier, you can link it to your Amazon account in the Alexa app as described above.
Unlike the paid customers, those using the free plan cannot request any songs they want. Instead, they can ask Alexa to play any playlists they’ve previously created, as well as Spotify’s own playlists. You can also request a Discover Weekly playlist, personalized to you, based on your musical preferences.
Obviously, your listening will be interrupted by ads just like when you use the Spotify app, since the free services are funded by ads.
Free Amazon Music on Alexa
Not particularly widely known, Amazon itself also has an ad-supported tier of free Music services. It gives you access to the roughly 2 million songs that Amazon Prime subscribers get, but as with Spotify, you can’t ask Alexa to play specific songs.
Instead, you can listen to playlists and stations. For example, you could say “Alexa, broadcast Michael Bublé,” “Alexa, play Top Pop,” or “Alexa, play All 80s.”
There are loads of downloads and you can see them if you go to music.amazon.com (or music.amazon.co.uk or whatever country site is appropriate) and log in.
Other limitations include listening on only one Echo device at a time, no HD or Ultra HD quality, and spatial audio support. See a full comparison of Amazon Music tiers.
If you pay for Amazon Music Unlimited, you get access to a powerful 90 million song catalog.
Amazon Music is the default music service for the Amazon Echo, so you don’t need to use the app. Once you’ve set up your Echo, Alexa will comply with your requests.
If not, follow the steps above and also check in the Services section of Music & Podcasts that Amazon Music is set as the default service for music.
You can set different default services for Music Stations, Artists and Genres, and Podcasts: they don’t have to be the same.
Free Apple Podcasts on Alexa
As mentioned, there is no free Apple Music tier. But you can listen to Apple Podcasts on Amazon Echo using Alexa.
The process for setting up this service is the same as for a music service, but once you’ve linked your account, tap Default service in the Music & Podcasts menu and tap Change. Select Apple Podcasts from the list.
Now, you can say “Alexa, play [name of podcast]”Or “Alexa, continue my podcast”.
Note that Amazon Music also includes podcasts and has other options like TuneIn.
Listen to the radio on Alexa
While availability varies around the world, you can listen to most radio stations broadcasting feeds to the internet.
In the UK, for example, there’s TuneIn, Global Player and Planet Radio. These services are configured like a music streaming service, but some don’t require you to have an account to use them.
For example, to listen to BBC stations, just say “Alexa, play Radio 4”. If this is your first time trying, you may have to say “Alexa, open BBC Sounds” first. But in subsequent times, that is not necessary.
Planet Radio, despite its name, provides access to UK radio stations such as KISS FM, Magic and many more.
Helpfully, you’re not limited to live listening: these services also allow you to listen to programs on demand.
Top tips for playing music and radio on Alexa
You probably know the basic playback commands: “Alexa, stop”, “Alexa, resume” and “Alexa, pause”.
You can also use these (some may not be available depending on the music service:
- “Alexa, set alarms at 7:30 a.m. for heart rate radio every day of the week”
If you have multiple Echo speakers and have created rooms and assigned echoes to those rooms (in the Alexa app), you can say
- “Alexa, play Jazz FM in the kitchen”
- “Alexa, play Radio X anywhere” (this will play on all your Echo devices)
In the case of on-demand support, check the service’s description to see what it has to say. For example, with Global Player, you can say
- “Alexa, play yesterday’s Chris Moyles”
- “Alexa, ask Global Player to fast forward 15 minutes”
Play music on your Amazon Echo via Bluetooth
The final option to listen to free music is to use your Echo as a Bluetooth speaker.
Just say “Alexa, pair” and go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings and find your Echo in the list of available devices. Tap it and accept the pairing request.
If this doesn’t work for any reason, you can use the Alexa app. Go to Devices, tap Echo & Alexa at the top, select the Echo you want to pair with from the list, and under Bluetooth Connections, tap Connect Devices.
This is no different than using your phone with your car’s Bluetooth, but you can say “Alexa, disconnect” to stop audio from your phone and “Alexa, connect to your phone.” [you phone’s name]“To reconnect in the future.
Additionally, you’ll see the Bluetooth connection re-establish automatically when your phone is within range of the Echo.
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