Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Amazon MP3 Store opens

Daring Fireball reports: [edited]

The new Amazon MP3 Store looks like no previous iTunes Store rival. The music is completely DRM-free, encoded at a very respectable 256 kbps, includes a ton of songs from major record labels, and offers terrific software support for Mac OS X.

When you purchase singles, you can download them directly via your web browser. When purchasing entire albums, however, Amazon requires the use of a helper application called Amazon MP3 Downloader.

When you purchase albums from Amazon, your browser downloads a .amz file, which opens in Amazon MP3 Downloader. Amazon MP3 Downloader then begins downloading the tracks from the album.

By default, tracks are stored in a new “Amazon MP3” sub-folder inside the Music folder in your home folder. Amazon MP3 Downloader also opens the files in iTunes, importing them into your iTunes library.

There’s a very high “it just works” factor here. Music is easy to find, easy to buy, and easy to download once you have the Amazon MP3 Downloader installed. When you download music with Amazon MP3 Downloader, it simply shows up in iTunes, as you’d expect, with no manual importing or additional action required on the user’s part. Sync your iPods, and the new music shows up there, too.

The songs sound great and come with high-resolution album art. Singles cost $.89 or $.99, and album prices start as low as $4.99 — i.e. they’ve introduced variable pricing to sell music for less, not more, than the iTunes Store. When you search for songs from an artist whose entire catalog is not available through their MP3 store, Amazon provides a direct link to the artist’s catalog in their CD store.

Two million total songs is far less than the six million Apple offers at the iTunes Store, but it’s a pretty good start, and all of Amazon MP3’s songs are DRM-free. I’m not sure how many DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks Apple offers, but it certainly seems like far fewer than one-in-three, and thus far fewer than two million. So while Amazon can’t claim to offer the most songs, they might be able to claim the most DRM-free songs.

The Amazon MP3 Store is clearly the biggest and best rival to the iTunes Store. It’s not a coincidence that they’ve eschewed DRM completely.

The store is U.S. only. I got around it by putting all my credit card details in as usual, but with a U.S. state and postcode. The files have downloaded fine, and I've got the confirmation billing emails. Will be interested to see if there are any ramifications.


Mr Bill said...

Wow - and at 89c per single, at current exchange rates that means it is even more of a bargain! (44p on 26/9/07).

brett jordan said...

yep, under half the price of apple's 'non-drm' tracks

Conrad Gempf said...

This must be a honeymoon period offer. Folks that have expressed unease at iTunes because of pricing and because of piracy concerns have nevertheless put their songs and albums here for the same price as iTunes or less and without DRM. Either the labels aren't as concerned about price and piracy as they've been claiming, or they've changed their minds without telling Apple, or they're playing a long range game with Amazon that will involve increasing prices in the long run. It is difficult to imagine them putting DRM back into the equation, however.

brett jordan said...

Yes, I can only imagine the conversations that are going on now between Mr Jobs and the recording companies that share their product with iTunes and Amazon :-)