The Amazon Echo is the biggest tech breakout in recent memory — a voice-activated, internet-connected “smart speaker” with a built-in virtual assistant named Alexa that can answer your questions, follow your instructions and control your smart home devices. Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, is infiltrating your life. Now that there are many ways to interact with Alexa — with the Tap, Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Look, Echo Show,  — you might find yourself talking to her more often. Let’s start with the basics. All of the Amazon Echo devices have a digital assistant named Alexa built in. All fit into a relatively new category of device called the smart speaker that the original Amazon Echo popularized back in 2014. Since all of Amazon’s Echo devices have Alexa built in, they have essentially the same core features. You also use them all in essentially the same way: You talk to them. Say the wake word (which is “Alexa” by default,) and you can ask your smart speaker to play music, control your smart home, search the internet, set a reminder or even make a call. Alexa’s a very capable assistant, and Amazon regularly adds new Alexa features.

With the Amazon Echo and access to Amazon’s Prime Music streaming service, it’s easy to get Alexa to start playing a specific song among the various playlists on Amazon Music.

Here’s how to access playlists via the Alexa app in addition to asking for one by voice.  

My Media necessitate setting up a media server device for streaming your music files to the Echo. It also has some of the same limitations: Whole-home streaming isn’t supported, and you must use exactly “Ask My Media…” syntax to start listening.

My Media does have some advantages: It can index playlists from iTunes and play music by genre, and it doesn’t have the Echo Show playback issues I experienced with Plex. On the downside, the service isn’t free like Plex. Streaming your music this way also has some restrictions compared to Amazon Music and other services that don’t need installing an Alexa skill, such as Spotify and Pandora:

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Download My Media for Alexa: Run the installation file, and go through the setup process. (launch the My Media for Alexa Console after installation completes, find and open it in your program list to carry on the setup in your web browser.)
  2. In the My Media for Alexa Console, click the green Next button, sign into your Amazon account and opt for Allow on the next page. When asked if you’d like to automatically download sample media, select “No”.
  3. Further, on the left sidebar, choose Watch Folders, then click the Add Folder button. Select the folder or folders where your songs are stored.
  4. Install the My Media skill for Alexa, either by searching for “My Media” under the Skills division of the Alexa mobile app or directly through the web
  5. Discretionary: To automatically share iTunes playlists with My Media For Alexa, open iTunes, then go to the Preferences menu. Click the Advanced tab, and then select “Share iTunes Library XML with other applications.” Return to the My Media for Alexa console, select ‘iTunes Library” from the left sidebar, and click “Index iTunes Library.”Select the folder where your XML files are located (typically /Users/[username]/Music/iTunes on macOS and C:\Users[username]\Music\iTunes on Windows).

Now, you can use My Media to play songs on the Echo or other Alexa devices.

Enclosed are some voice command illustrations:

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”Ask My Media to play music by artist.”

”Ask My Media to play the album by an artist.”

”Ask My Media to play the song by artist.”

”Ask My Media to play my playlist name”

”Ask My Media to play genre music.”

”Ask My Media to turn shuffle on/off.”

”Ask My Media to turn loop on/off.”

You can also say “Next track,” “Previous track,” “Pause,” “Play,” and “Stop” without having to say “ask My Media” first.

Alexa is an awesome, smart assistant, and you’ll get to take advantage of the digital assistant’s ever-growing lineup of abilities regardless of which Echo device you pick. This is one of those fun choices for which there isn’t really a wrong answer.

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