Amazon Music explains how it works with popular artists like John Legend and Katy Perry to create original holiday songs that top the charts


Dan McCarroll

  • Amazon Music creates original content exclusively for its listeners year-round, but ramps up efforts during the holiday season.
  • The company partners with artists like Katy Perry, John Legend, and Ellie Goulding who typically perform well on Amazon Music to create holiday songs that top the charts worldwide. 
  • Amazon Music works with artists to promote and share the songs, often releasing them to radio stations around the world after they debut on Amazon Music.
  • The effort has paid off, with original holiday singles accumulating more than 100 million streams on the service worldwide so far this year.
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Amazon Music has a lot of competition when it comes to streaming, so it drives listening during the holidays by commissioning exclusive songs.

Amazon Originals releases music throughout the year but pays special attention to its holiday lineup, said Dan McCarroll, the head of artist relations and Amazon Originals at Amazon Music.

“Amazon is such a popular destination for the holidays in general, so for us it’s just about trying to enhance that customer experience even more,” McCarroll said.

Amazon Originals started commissioning holiday songs shortly after Amazon’s Prime Music service launched in 2014, the company said. The first music created for Amazon Originals was geared toward the holidays, and included songs by Brandi Carlile, Yoko Ono and the Flaming Lips, and Liz Phair.

Amazon Music started ramping up the holiday originals in 2018 when McCarroll joined the company from Warner Bros. Records.

McCarroll and his team look at which artists with big fanbases have the most streaming success on Amazon Music throughout the year, then pitch partnerships for originals to those performers.

Katy Perry, for instance, is popular on Amazon Music, so Amazon Originals worked with Perry, her label, and management team to create “Cozy Little Christmas” for the streaming service last year.

Artists have creative freedom when partnering with Amazon Originals, McCarroll said, although the company works with them to create songs it thinks will resonate with Amazon Music listeners.

Amazon Music uses multiple platforms to promote its original holiday songs

Artists who work with Amazon Originals also have a say in how their music is released, so some choose to wide-release their songs after a brief period of exclusive availability across Amazon Music’s three subscription tiers, McCarroll said.

Last year’s Katy Perry song was eventually pushed out to other streaming services and radio stations, but hit No. 1 on Billboard’s adult contemporary music chart while it was still exclusive to Amazon Music. Amazon also featured the song in its “A Voice is All You Need” ad campaign for Alexa.

This year, Amazon Originals worked with John Legend — whose Christmas album “A Legendary Christmas” sits at No. 27 on Billboard’s top 200 albums chart — to create his reimagined version of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

The song is only available on Amazon Music, although Amazon Originals has been working with Legend to promote it widely, McCarroll said. Legend recently performed the song live with Jorja Smith at the Global Citizen Prize award ceremony in London, and the performance aired on MSNBC in the US. 

Legend has also shared Amazon advertisements for “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” linked to Alexa on his Twitter page, and Amazon Music’s YouTube channel promoted the song to almost 33,000 subscribers with a video of Legend discussing what the song means to him and his experience recording it with his wife and daughter. 

Amazon Music has seen these efforts pay off, McCarroll said, with its original holiday singles accumulating more than 100 million streams on the service worldwide so far this year.

Alexa is popular for holiday listening in the US, but some songs perform better internationally

Amazon Music promotes its originals with Alexa, and the voice assistant is also commonly used to stream holiday songs that are not exclusive to Amazon’s streaming service. 

There have been more than 100 million voice requests for holiday music in general on Alexa so far this year in the US alone, the company said. And since the beginning of December, holiday songs have been requested via Alexa thousands of times per minute on Amazon Music in particular.

Some of Amazon Music’s holiday originals are performing well on music charts worldwide as well.

Ellie Goulding’s cover of “River” peaked at No. 8 during its third week on the UK’s “First Look” top 40 singles chart and is predicted to reach No. 1 by the end of Christmas week, according to Billboard.

Goulding’s “River” cover is the second Amazon Original song to enter the UK top singles chart, the company said. “Cozy Little Christmas” was the first, and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” entered shortly after “River.”

Goulding has performed the song live on BBC’s Radio 1, and the music video has been viewed about 1.5 million times since its release in early December. The song is exclusive to Amazon Music but has been serviced to 13 radio stations including Radio 1, the company said.

McCarroll said keeping the songs exclusive to Amazon when they’re first released but allowing artists to perform them live around the world works well for both parties.

“The artists love giving their fans something that’s really special that you can just get on Amazon,” McCarroll said. “It reminds me of being in a fan club, or being able to get specific pieces of vinyl, or something else that’s really special for the fans.”

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