Amazon would love nothing more than for you to only play their content over an Alexa-powered device, but the reality is that no single music service is going to have all the content you want and Amazon knows this.
That’s why it’s perfectly possible to use a number of other music services with your Amazon Echo device. Alexa has quite a few tricks up her sleeve and more are being added all the time.
There are two basic ways in which you can use a music service with Alexa. On the one hand, there are the services that have native support on the platform. Alexa usually has full control over these and can search for specific music or active pre made playlists.
On the other hand, we have streaming services that do not yet have native Alexa integration. In that case, we have to use a bit of a kludge to get things working, usually by using Bluetooth and another device like a tablet or smartphone. Either way, I’ll be showing you how both methods work right here.
Native Music Services for Alexa
The list of natively-supported services is growing all the time, so by the time you read this there may be way more examples than we know about right now.
At present people with accounts from Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn can integrate them with Alexa. In order to do this, you need to link your Amazon Alexa account with your music service account.
You can accomplish this either by going to alexa.amazon.com or in the Alexa app. You’ll find the place to link those account under settings>music & media.
This is also where you can change the default music and radio services that Alexa uses if you don’t want Amazon Music and TuneIn to be the defaults.
Just remember that you need a Spotify Premium account and that you’ll have to ask for podcasts through TuneIn and not the music service. Yes, it’s a little weird since some of those same podcasts are on the music services, but that’s how it is at the moment.
Importing Music to Amazon
There’s no native iTunes or Google Music support at the moment and I doubt there ever will be, but music that you’ve outright bought on another service can be ported to Amazon Music by going to music.amazon.com.
By default, you can import 250 songs for free from iTunes. All you have to do is install the Amazon Music client on your PC and it will automatically import and upload your iTunes collection.
If you have more than 250 tracks you’ll have to stump up twenty-five bucks a year for the privilege of storing them in Amazon Music. At least the cap is then raised to 250 000! Does anyone own that much music?
Streaming from Unsupported Services
If you’re (understandably) a fan of Apple Music or something else other than Amazon’s offering, there’s no way to stream natively through Alexa. Still, where there’s a will there’s a way, which in this case is Bluetooth.
The easiest way to pair your smartphone (or tablet) with Alexa is to ask her. Just say “Alexa, pair my phone” and then select the Echo speaker from the list of Bluetooth devices on your phone’s list. Since different phones have different steps for using Bluetooth I can’t go over them all here, you’ll have to look up the method for your particular model.
Once your Echo is paired as a Bluetooth speaker you can of course play whatever you want. What you can’t do is use Alexa to search for music or skip tracks. You can still use the phone’s voice assistant, such as Siri, to do the same thing as long as your music source is compatible.
You can tell Alexa to “disconnect” to end the pairing or just switch do it from the phone.
Skills to P(l)ay the, er, Music
There’s a third way to get music to stream through Alexa and that’s by using “skills” which are third-party expansions to Alexa’s abilities.
To be honest, there aren’t that many skills that relate to music streaming and they have nothing to do with big mainstream services. If you go to alexa.amazon.com and click on “skills” you’ll be greeted with a big list of skills you can add to your instance of Alexa.
Search for the term “music” and you’ll get results for skills like Free Music Archive, Chinese Music Player, and Classical Study Music. Yes, it’s all a little left of field, but you never know what you’ll discover. Each skill comes with its own commands that you’ll have to note, so do read the description.
Alexa Music Commands
There are quite a few voice commands that Alexa knows related to music. Some of these will only workwith native services like Spotify and others will work with any audio, such as volume control.
The playback stuff is pretty straightforward and should work for most audio played natively:
- Stop the music
- Next song
- Repeat this song
- “Volume (X)” – pick a number between 1-10
I personally like the command “set a sleep timer for X minutes”. This lets you fall asleep without the music playing all night.
You can find a full list of music commands and which services support what here.
Play It Again, Alexa
Alexa is turning into one of the most flexible tools to get the jams going both at home and on the go. It’s still far from perfect, but Amazon is sure to expand those functions when the consumer demand is there. Given that Amazon is set to dominate the smart speaker market in 2017, there should be more than enough money and will to open things up so that everyone can be happy.