HITS Daily Double


The latest excerpt from our profiles of industry ballers focuses on Amazon Music VP Steve Boom and his BFF, Alexa.

“I’ve got the best job in the music business,” Amazon Music VP Steve Boom told HITS in a 2018 interview, adding, “I don’t ever have two days that look the same. I obviously spend a lot of time … [with] record labels, publishers or managers, and then I spend a lot of time on the product.” Boom’s diverse duties have not only spurred his creativity; they’ve also helped propel him to prominence as one of the most effective and biz-friendly execs in the digital space.

Thanks to the efforts of Boom and his team—who have been fully empowered by big boss Jeff Bezos—Amazon has emerged as a strong third, behind Spotify and Apple Music, in the hugely competitive on-demand streaming race.

This is thanks in part to the online-shopping giant’s innovations in voice-activated tech. The Alexa-powered Echo smart speaker—which enables users to stream songs just by asking—initiated, well, a Boom. But it’s also been the diligent cultivation of Amazon’s upper-demo user base (which has historically been slow to embrace streaming) and the development of trusting relationships with artists and execs that have made him a crucial figure.

One strong indicator of Amazon Music’s increased standing in the biz was its Amazon Prime Day Concert in July of 2019. Available as a live stream and an on-demand show thereafter, the highly touted event—developed by Boom and team—featured performances by Taylor Swift, SZA, Dua Lipa and Becky G. The concert earned a gigantic media look and underscored how important music had become to Amazon’s overall brand. It also underlined the company’s standing with artists and the biz.

“Steve has been an incredible partner and one of the most forward-thinking executives in the business,” Interscope EVP/Chief Revenue Officer Gary Kelly says. “Looking at the recent global campaigns he and his team built for us—whether it’s Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons or Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born—there’s always been one goal: engaging the fans in a meaningful way. He puts them front and center when we start talking about a project, and we build from that. But beyond all that, Steve is a truly great guy who’s passionate about what he does.”

“What we are seeing is that people are listening to more music than ever: We see it from data, and we hear it anecdotally from customers,” Boom says. “The simplicity of the technology—of just using your voice—opened up streaming to people who otherwise maybe don’t want to listen to music on their phone, which is an unnatural activity for entire groups of people. If you’re 15-22, of course, it’s totally normal. The phone is glued to your eyeballs, practically.”

But, he adds, “there are other populations for whom that’s not the case. The Echo is a combination of being simple and being in the home.”

Voice has thus brought a meaningful portion of Amazon’s generally older-skewing audience to streaming with the least amount of friction imaginable.

Central to that equation is Alexa, the voice-controlled mechanism Echo consumers use to access Amazon Music –– as in “Alexa, play U2’s War.” Says Boom, “They’ve been my favorite band since I was 12.” The interoperability of Amazon Music, Echo and Alexa, he insists, provides a transformative user experience: “‘OK, I want to listen to U2 from the ’80s, so [previously] I’m going to type in U2, get to U2’s artist screen. OK, which albums are from the ’80s? OK, I’m going to create a new playlist, drag the songs...’ Five minutes later you’re listening to music. But this is five seconds.”

As VP of Amazon Music, Boom has global responsibility for strategy, product development, licensing, marketing, industry relations and business development. He also has the ear of his boss.

“I try to spend my time on areas that I think are important for the future, and where I think I can add value,” Bezos told Billboard. “I also like to spend time on things that energize me. I dance into work if I have Echo and Alexa meetings on my schedule that day.”

“Steve is that rare executive who combines his love for music with his passion for taking Amazon Music and making it a force of nature for music consumption,” says Maverick Music President Greg Thompson, who adds, “U2 always felt we had the good fortune of having a fan navigating their journey at Amazon.”

“I think we’re at the cusp of what I would call the Golden Age of the music industry,” Boom declares. “When we look at the long-term prospects...we’re incredibly bullish.”

Read the entire profile here