One of the irritations many Amazon Echo owners have had in the past was that you could play Alexa music, but only if you were a paid subscriber to Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, Spotify, or another Amazon service. streaming.
Although some of them – notably Spotify – had a free tier, this was not supported on smart speakers.
Fortunately, things have changed and you can now listen to Spotify and Amazon’s own ad-supported free music service. (Apple said there will never be a free tier, so unfortunately Apple Music will always be banned on Alexa unless you pay for it.)
Beyond streaming services, there are other options for listening to music, such as radio stations and podcasts.
Here’s what you need to know to get Alexa to stream music for free and the limitations you can expect.
How to Link a Music Service to Alexa
It’s the same basic process to use any of the services mentioned here.
- Open the Alexa app and tap More
- Tap Settings
- Scroll down and tap Music & Podcasts
- Tap the service you want to use (these vary by country), then follow the prompts to activate or “launch” the service
Binding a service usually involves entering your username and password for the service, which means you will already need to create an account. However, not all of them require an account, like radio players.
Free Spotify on Alexa
If you’re using Spotify’s free tier, you can link it to your Amazon account in the Alexa app as described above.
Unlike paid customers, those on the free plan cannot request any song 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 the Discover Weekly playlist, which is personalized to you, based on your musical tastes.
Obviously, your listening will be interrupted by advertisements as if you were using the Spotify app, since the free services are ad-supported.
Free Amazon Music on Alexa
Not particularly well-known, Amazon itself has an ad-supported free tier of its music service. It gives you access to roughly the same 2 million songs that Amazon Prime subscribers get, but like with Spotify, you can’t ask Alexa to play specific songs.
Instead, you can listen to playlists and stations. For example, you can say “Alexa, play Michael Bublé station”, “Alexa, play Top Pop station”, or “Alexa, play All 80s station”.
There are plenty of them, and you can see them if you head to music.amazon.com (or music.amazon.co.uk or the appropriate country website) and log in.
Other limitations include listening on only one Echo device at a time, no HD or Ultra HD quality, or support for spatial audio. To see the full amazon music tier comparison.
If you pay for Amazon Music Unlimited, you get access to the catalog of 90 million songs.
Amazon Music is the default music service for Amazon Echo, so you shouldn’t need to use the app at all. Once you’ve set up your Echo, Alexa should 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, artist and genre stations and podcasts: they don’t all have to be the same.
Free Apple Podcasts on Alexa
As mentioned, there is no free tier of Apple Music. But you can listen to Apple Podcasts on an Amazon Echo using Alexa.
The setup process is the same as for a music service, but once you’ve linked your account, tap Default Services in the Music & Podcast menu and tap Edit. Choose Apple Podcasts from the list.
Now you can say “Alexa, play [name of podcast]or “Alexa, resume my podcast.”
Note that Amazon Music also includes podcasts and there are other options such as TuneIn.
Listen to the radio on Alexa
Although availability varies around the world, you can listen to most radio stations that stream over the internet.
In the UK, for example, there is TuneIn, Global Player and Planet Radio. These are set up the same way as a music streaming service, but some don’t require you to have an account to use them.
To listen to BBC stations, for example, just say “Alexa, play Radio 4”. If this is your first time trying, you may need to say “Alexa, open BBC Sounds” first. But on later occasions, it is not necessary.
Planet Radio, despite its name, offers access to UK radio stations such as KISS FM, Magic and many more.
Useful, you are not limited to live listening: these services also allow you to listen to programs on demand.
Top Tips for Listening to Music and Radio on Alexa
You’re probably familiar with the basic playback commands: “Alexa, stop,” “Alexa, resume,” and “Alexa, pause.”
You can also use them (some may not be available depending on the music service:
- “Alexa, set an alarm for 7:30 a.m. on the heart radio every day of the week”
If you have multiple Echo speakers and you’ve 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 everywhere” (this will play on all your Echo devices)
When on-demand service is supported, see the service description for what to say. For example, with Global Player you can say
- “Alexa, play Chris Moyles’ show from yesterday”
- “Alexa, ask Global Player to fast forward 15 minutes”
Listen to music on your Amazon Echo via Bluetooth
The last option to listen to music for free 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 on it and approve the pairing request.
If that doesn’t work for some reason, you can use the Alexa app. Go to Devices, tap Echo and Alexa at the top, select the Echo you want to pair from the list, and under the Bluetooth Connections section, tap Connect Device.
It’s no different than using your phone with your car’s Bluetooth, but you can say “Alexa, disconnect” to stop your phone’s audio playing and “Alexa, connect to [you phone’s name]” to reconnect in the future.
Additionally, you’ll find that the Bluetooth connection will automatically reestablish itself when your phone is within range of your Echo.