Today, Amazon Music announced a new feature called DJ Mode, which it’s promoting as a hybrid of streaming and DJ-hosted radio. Essentially, DJ Mode stations are hosted by artists, DJs, and other music industry figures. The hosts provide the stories behind particular tracks, discuss the music scene of a particular genre, or attempt to entertain you as you listen.
The first DJ-hosted stations to go live are three of the app’s most popular – Rap Rotation (hosted by hip-hop personality DJ Letty), Country Heat (hosted by Nashville radio personality Kelly Sutton), and All Hits (hosted by Nashville radio personality Kelly Sutton). Hosted by Seattle Radio host DJ Karen Wilde).
As of now, the only station hosted by the artist is Billie Eilish Takeover Station, on which the pop star shares some of the inspirations, influences, and stories behind her most popular tracks. Artists like The Weeknd and Bruno Mars will also discuss their process on other stations and share insights into their music, but on a more limited basis.
We took this feature for a spin, and though the idea is intriguing, it’s half-baked in two different ways. First, let’s discuss the rollout and UI integration.
Amazon says you can access these stations using Alexa (for example, “Alexa, play rap rotation in DJ mode”), the all-new Car Mode, or the Amazon Music app for iOS, Android, and Fire TV Huh. that sounds great. The problem is, at this point in time, you won’t find these stations unless you already know what you’re looking for.
For example, while the Billie Eilish Takeover station is promoted on the homepage of the app, nowhere is it mentioned that the station is part of the new DJ Mode, nor is there any explanation of what DJ Mode is. To put an end to this, there is no dedicated tab that you can use to access the available DJ Mode stations.
For now, you have to use search Tab to find them by name or K station Filter to scroll through the available radio offers. But it is also more difficult than it should be. For example, if you search for “wrap rotation” in the Android app, top result The tab will display Rap Rotation Playlist, Rap Rotation Video Playlist, and Standard Rap Rotation Station – but you’ll have to scroll down to find Rap Rotation in DJ mode. Searching for “rap rotation dj mode” will get you where you need to be, but again not if you don’t already know what you’re looking for.
The other problem with this feature is that – as of now – it’s hardly a feature. Let’s use the wrap rotation station as an example. We listened to this station for about an hour and barely heard from our host DJ Letty. Every few tracks she would chime in with the cut very quickly, introduce a tiny bit of context about the song ahead, and then it went back to business as usual. The acquisition of Billie Eilish was a bit more interesting, with some (slightly) longer cuts and more substantial storylines between tracks, but once again we found ourselves forgetting about our host’s presence.
In short, Amazon may be onto something here, but if it’s going to promote it as a differentiator in the competitive music streaming landscape, it must commit to the feature. For now, we’re more excited about our decision to upgrade all of our Amazon Unlimited customers to Amazon Music HD, but we’re interested to see how DJ Mode develops over the coming weeks and months.
DJ Mode is available today for US-based users with an Amazon Music Unlimited or Amazon Music HD subscription.