Amazon Prime members are getting a new perk: The company announced Thursday that it is launching its own streaming music service as part of its premium membership package.
The service, called Prime Music, comes at no extra charge to members of Amazon’s Prime service, who pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping and access to the company’s video content.
The move gives Amazon a foot in the door of the growing online music world and may help it smooth any ruffled feathers among its valuable Prime customers after it decided to hike the annual cost of Prime membership earlier this year to $99 from $79.
Prime Music is ad-free and unlimited. Like Spotify, Prime Music will let users pick the specific tracks that they want, rather than having them tune into a Pandora-like radio station featuring songs from a certain genre. Amazon also is applying its recommendation expertise to the service by suggesting tracks you might like based on the ones you choose yourself and by offering curated playlists with names like “Feel-Good Country” and “80s Dance Floor Fillers.”
Before you get too excited, however, there are a couple of caveats. The main one is that while Amazon’s new service does include songs from top artists such as Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Blake Shelton and Madonna, the online retail giant hasn’t struck deals with all the major music labels.
So, the odds are that you’ll quickly find that some song you want to listen to — like any original Beatles song — isn’t available on the free service. Missing, too, are the hits of the moment. BuzzFeed reported that Amazon won’t get access to songs until the tunes have been out for six months. That kind of delay echoes other content deals the company has made, such as its agreement with HBO to include only items from the back catalog in Prime.
— Hayley Tsukayama
Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it was lowering the fuel economy ratings on six of its models, including a number of hybrids, and would reimburse owners for the difference.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker said the ratings would be cut on its 2013 and 2014 model year hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as most 2014 Fiesta cars. It was the second time Ford cut fuel ratings for the C-Max hybrid in under a year.
“We apologize to our customers and will provide goodwill payments to affected owners,” Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We also are taking steps to improve our processes and prevent issues like this from happening again.”
The restatement of mileage estimates is nothing new in the auto industry.
Last August, Ford — which has touted its superior fuel efficiency in the past — cut the ratings for the C-Max hybrid by up to 7 mpg after complaints from consumers and experts that the model’s actual mileage fell short of the company’s claims.
In 2012, an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. overstated fuel economy by at least a mile per gallon. The South Korean carmakers last December agreed to pay $395 million to settle lawsuits related to the matter.
The largest change is for Ford’s Lincoln MKZ hybrid, which saw its combined city and highway fuel economy value reduced by 7 miles per gallon. Other affected models include four versions of the Fiesta, the hybrid and Energi versions of the Fusion, and the C-Max hybrid and Energi.
● U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in May and first-time applications for jobless benefits increased last week, but the data did little to alter views the economy is regaining steam. The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales gained 0.3 percent. While that was below the 0.6 percent rise expected on Wall Street, April sales were revised higher to show a 0.5 percent increase, helping to keep growth forecasts intact. In a separate report, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits climbed 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 317,000 for the week ended June 7. Despite the rise, claims are not too far from their pre-recession lows and job growth continues at a steady clip.
● Lululemon Athletica Inc. slumped to the lowest level in three years after the yogawear retailer cut its full-year earnings forecast as it looks to expand into international markets and recover from a product recall. The shares plunged 16 percent to $37.25 at the close of trading Thursday, the lowest since March 2011. They have declined 37 percent so far this year.The company has been seeking to address supply-chain issues and quality checks that slowed deliveries, and also has been trying to regain shoppers’ trust after it recalled its popular line of black Luon yoga pants for being too sheer.
● China’s Uber-like Yongche.com is preparing to expand into markets such as Uber Technologies Inc.’s home of San Francisco to capitalize on the idea that most cab drivers from New York to London can’t speak Mandarin. “Most Chinese don’t speak English and find it difficult to communicate with foreign drivers after they land in another country,” Herman Zhou, 41, founder and chief executive of China’s largest mobile car-sharing service, said this week. “We will have Chinese-speaking drivers in the U.S. and other places to make it seamless and stress-free.”
● Many federal workers and contractors who earn the minimum wage are getting a raise next year. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez has issued a rule to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. The higher level applies to new federal construction and service contracts beginning Jan. 1. President Obama had announced the raise earlier this year, but Perez moved to put it into effect.
● The Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel will hold a hearing June 24 to examine the proposed purchase by AT&T of DirectTV, the committee said Thursday. AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. cellular operator, said in May it planned to buy the largest U.S. satellite TV provider for $48.5 billion. In a regulatory filing this week, AT&T said it needed DirectTV’s customer base to give it economy of scale.
— From news services
● 8:30 a.m.: Producer price index.
● 9:55 a.m.: Consumer sentiment.
● ● Earnings: Liberty Energy, Studio One Media