Ten Sentences on AmazonMP3, the Music Download Store | iLounge Backstage

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Ten Sentences on AmazonMP3, the Music Download Store

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
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(1) With the aesthetics of its web-based interface aside—and I suspect even they’ll be fixed—Amazon’s new AmazonMP3 music download service is almost exactly what I’ve been waiting for, for years.

(2) Rather than offering something equivalent to or worse than standard iTunes downloads, Amazon’s default is a decidedly superior 256kbps, device-agnostic, no strings attached MP3 file for 89 or 99 cents, versus Apple’s 128kbps AAC for 99 cents.

(3) Amazon’s 256k MP3 format accomplishes precisely what people need, namely, a way to quickly and legally obtain high-quality music that’s ready for playback without going to a store, waiting for a delivery, or ripping a CD.

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(4-5) The store’s 2-million-track library is also pretty impressive, and amusing mostly in that so many of the current top tracks and albums are ones Apple’s been promoting: Corinne Bailey Rae, KT Tunstall, and Feist are just a few of the familiar names, alongside $9 (!) albums from Kanye West, 50 Cent, and other top artists.

(6) Amazon also got a turnkey alternative part of its system right, letting you conveniently order an aggressively-priced CD if you can’t find the download you’re looking for, which you can’t do on iTunes.

(7-8) There’s no doubt that the breadth, depth, and ease-of-use of iTunes’ varied digital media catalogs is impressive. And let’s not kid ourselves here, if you’ve used Amazon’s Unbox video download service with a TiVo, you know that its downloads can be slow as molasses, and otherwise not as convenient as Apple’s.

(9) But—and this is a big “but”—iTunes has been in a weird holding pattern for the last year, waiting for the other shoe to drop on major studios’ video downloads, rentals, and high-definition support, as competitors have succeeded in making strides, perhaps through friendlier negotiating tactics.

(10) As an Amazon CD and DVD customer, I’m about to become an AmazonMP3 customer too, and given where Apple’s been going with video recently, who knows what other digital content I’ll be buying from Amazon in the future.

And now, two sentences on how iTunes can eat Amazon alive: true internationalization, with deals so customers anywhere in the world can buy content from anywhere in the world, sans hassles. Someone’s gotta do it, and it should be Apple.

Your thoughts?

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Comments

1

I’m completely sold on amazonmp3. It’s what I’ve been waiting for, and completely flits the bill on what I need. It even has the hi res album art, but most importantly no DRM and high quality.

a side note, what’s with apple disabling Josh’s ITunes Art Grabber. Just when I was getting excited and also proud of apple letting this work they shut it down. Come on!

Posted by ~ruindpzzle in san diego, CA on September 26, 2007 at 11:38 PM (PDT)

2

Customers are winning, and gaining choice between who they buy from. Apple always claims that their store is meant to promote iPod sales rather than generate huge revenues, so now it’s time to see if they really mean it by supporting this new experiment in open markets.

Posted by Zeke on September 26, 2007 at 11:47 PM (PDT)

3

i’m all for internationalization! it’s really frustrating to be a non-US customer, not being able to buy music I like. how can you expect to stop piracy when you won’t even make your product available to everyone?

Posted by Yoga on September 27, 2007 at 12:42 AM (PDT)

4

One of the things that has irked me for a long time is the AAC volume bug on the iTunes Store’s 128 KPBs files that I have purchased. It is very noticeable when playing back mixed MP3/AAC playlists on my iPods. Unfortunately, most of the songs I have purchased are not available on the iTunes store’s DRM-free files encoded at 256kpbs. Guess what, most of them ARE AVAILABLE on Amazon. Apple is definetely asleep at the switch and they had better wake up fast because I can already hear that sucking sound from iTunes to Amazon.

Posted by Steve on September 27, 2007 at 12:42 AM (PDT)

5

For the general consumer this is a blessing. I have never bought tune one at iTunes and I never will because of their odd formats and stupid drm vendor locking.

As a matter of fact I am not even interested in purchasing high quality MP3’s at these prices, I want full range WAV’s. And since I mainly listen to dance music Beatport is all I need.

But again for the general public that is satisfied with the sound quality of compressed files this is a welcome breakthrough.

Posted by Ericc B on September 27, 2007 at 1:11 AM (PDT)

6

I’ve bought exactly 2 songs off iTunes… because of the AAC and the underhandedness Apple used to prevent the songs from even being backed up properly from the Finder and from 3rd part software like Roxio.  I’ve always bought the CDs and ripped them.  Amazon’s choice is the first time I may actually abandon CDs.

Posted by k Daniel on September 27, 2007 at 3:40 AM (PDT)

7

Seems to not allow use of international credit cards, where the same cards can be used for ‘normal’ purchases?

Posted by Phil B on September 27, 2007 at 4:23 AM (PDT)

8

Yes you can buy with international cards. Just lie on you city/zip code.

Happy downloading here! Just bought my first legal album. A real bargain: 3 electronic music CDs (65 tracks) AND the same CDS in three-full track, no cuts… for only $8.99!

Nobody would be doing piracy in a scheeme like this.

Congrats to Amazon.

Posted by MT on September 27, 2007 at 4:37 AM (PDT)

9

With respect to international orders here is a workaround. I’m in Canada (Ontario) and only have Canadian credit cards. I just entered a us state and a believable postal code and it worked. Just google some address in any state to get a code that matches the city and your golden.

Posted by Joe Blough on September 27, 2007 at 4:39 AM (PDT)

10

Yes…you’ve exposed a unknown characteristic about the credit card industry.  Many merchant accounts are not set to REFUSE a charge if the billing address doesn’t match.  The merchant may get dinged with a higher fee, but that’s better than losing a sale.

Posted by CF13 on September 27, 2007 at 6:12 AM (PDT)

11

I’ld be lying if I said Amazon did’nt have a ways to go. The selection still does’nt stack up to Apple’s and the interface is uglier than a hippo on mescaline.
However, the pricing on DRM free tracks is between roughly thirty to thirty-five percent less than Apple. It’s pleasantly simple to use, and thanks to the iTunes integration, practically seamless. No doubt about it, they’re my new source for music until Apple its act together.

Posted by MirandaKali in D.C. on September 27, 2007 at 7:19 AM (PDT)

12

Amazon = the new Apple

Apple = the new Microsoft

Posted by Munkey on September 27, 2007 at 7:33 AM (PDT)

13

Cheap food causes obesity and is not good for once health!

It is too early to celebrate, since nobody knows what the hidden costs are for these cheap fixes offered by the Record Labels through their Amazon fronted music distribution!

Posted by Viswakarma on September 27, 2007 at 8:37 AM (PDT)

14

I tried this service the first night the beta was announced to the world - loved it.  It was very easy and very friendly.  It gives you options to drop the songs directly to your iTunes, WMP, or do nothing.  I have been waiting for FREEDOM to put on my multiple, personal music players of varying brands.  I also applaude ilounge site, one that is devoted to the Apple experience, being open to alternatives that would allow a customer to use something other than Apple products.  Bravo for taking the consumer’s POV.  I am puzzled by one comment if someone could elaborate:  What does the person mean when they refer to hidden costs for cheap fixes offered by the record labels?  I don’t follow.  I read the EULA.  I could find no catch other than, you bought it, you lose it?  Too bad.  And, of course, no sharing allowed.

Posted by sgrmba on September 27, 2007 at 8:56 AM (PDT)

15

Funny: today’s most popular artist in Amazon is Eminem. I wonder if he will sue them too.

Posted by misaelt in Mexico on September 27, 2007 at 9:37 AM (PDT)

16

AMEN to (almost) everything that has been said.  I’m an active consumer of music with about 40 gigs of legal music on my iPod ALL RIPPED FROM CD.  I decided long ago I would not be roped into anybody’s proprietary DRM-laden scheme and so I’ve never bought a song from iTunes.  I think my music buying world just changed.  My first Amazon MP3 experience was quick, easy and cheap!!!  The Weepies for $6.99…amazing!

Posted by caldjeff on September 27, 2007 at 9:56 AM (PDT)

17

Amazon mp3 download was easy to use, but my second purchase was full of skips, making it unlistenable. I reported it and we’ll see how Amazon responds.

Posted by Walt on September 27, 2007 at 10:24 AM (PDT)

18

I wouldn’t hold your breath on Amazon doing any DRM-free video - their unbox is far more restrictive than iTunes videos, which is why NBC went with them.

The Amazon MP3 store looks pretty good; still not sure how they’re selling the EMI tracks so long relative to iTunes - is EMI cutting them a better deal or is AMazon just making less per track?

Posted by Marcos on September 27, 2007 at 10:48 AM (PDT)

19

I was totally stoked, but can’t get the amazon tunes to work on my mac??  what am I doing wrong?

Posted by andrew Chasnoff on September 27, 2007 at 2:37 PM (PDT)

20

I am not worried about the international credit cards. I prefer to buy a entire CD for only US$1 in Russian legal sites like http://legalsounds.com

Posted by MARIO AGUILA on September 27, 2007 at 4:24 PM (PDT)

21

Let me just say upfront I am an unapologetic Apple fanboy. 

That being said, goodbye iTunes Music Store, Hello Amazon.  Higher bitrate VBR MP3 files sans DRM for LESS MONEY?  The tech-savvy will be the first to jump ship, but the masses will follow.

If I’m an Apple exec, I’m hitting the panic button because this is for real: a true iTunes-killer.

Posted by rayzha on September 27, 2007 at 5:38 PM (PDT)

22

You guys are all missing the big picture.  This isn’t a blow to Apple.  This is a blow to Microsoft.

Apple welcomes DRM.  Apple has always said that iTunes-purchased songs account for a small percentage of tunes on an iPod.  Apple welcomes DRM-free songs playable on any device, because it believes it makes the best player, and it ultimately makes money selling iPods.  The DRM on iTunes songs is not vendor lockin but was mandated by the music cartels.  In fact, Apple offered the most open DRM of all: iTunes purchased songs are playable on Macs and PCs, up to 5 computers, and you can burn a CD and effectively bypass the DRM!

Have you forgotten the open letter Steve Jobs posted for the music cartels to end DRM?  In fact, the reason why Amazon is able to do this today is because Apple paved the way—it was the first to offer legal DRM-free tracks from EMI.  After Apple posted the open letter, some of the very music companies who are offering DRM-free tunes in Amazon, said in response that they would never offer DRM-free tunes.

Microsoft, however, wants DRM.  Microsoft wants to lock the music industry to Microsoft media.  They attempted this with PlaysforSure and with the Zune store.  When Steve Jobs posted the open letter for the music industry to do away with DRM, Microsoft called his comments irresponsible.

The real tech-savvy know that 256kpbs MP3 is NOT higher quality than 128kpbs AAC.  MP3 is old technology and not as efficient as AAC, which is an open standard.  To get the same quality, MP3 takes up twice the disc space, so you reduce the number of tunes on your device by half.  REGARDLESS, the emergence of AmazonMP3 is a great blow to Redmond, not Cupertino… a blow to MS’s long battle to try to dominate the music industry with Windows Media DRM.

Also be aware that AmazonMP3 may be a move by the music cartels to unseat Apple so that they ultimately may price tunes at any price they see fit.  Apple has fought consistently to keep prices low at 99 cents a track.  I doubt that Amazon will fight to keep prices low when the music cartels want to jack them up.  Don’t be surprised if the current lower prices of Amazon is a ruse intended by the music cartels to undercut iTunes Music Store so that they can ultimately have their way with higher prices.

Posted by since1985 on September 27, 2007 at 6:54 PM (PDT)

23

Sorry that I can’t edit my comment.  First sentence in paragraph two should’ve read “Apple welcomes DRM-free music.”

Posted by since1985 on September 27, 2007 at 6:58 PM (PDT)

24

I agree with since1985. Offer them a low price to “reel ‘em in, get ‘em hooked”, then jack up the prices. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the tactic they take with this.

Posted by Tenchi211 in California on September 27, 2007 at 10:15 PM (PDT)

25

And remember that this is a six month experiment by Universal Music Group. Universal may decide to end the experiment at the end of the six months. If that happens then Amazon will lose the ability to sell Universal’s catalog without DRM.

Also, for those saying that Apple needs to remove the DRM from the music they sell, don’t forget that Universal would not allow Apple to do so. The iTunes Store is their “Control Group” for the experiment.

Posted by Kromm on September 28, 2007 at 12:38 AM (PDT)

26

since1985 is pretty much correct in his or her analysis.  This is a blow to MSF’s Janus DRM. 

As to the major label’s eventual price-gouging: I don’t know.  Sure, Universal would love to increase prices.  But Amazon’s retail policies are pretty much based on price-point.  No one uses Amazon to pay _more_ than other on-line dealers or physical stores.  As there’s no shipping on digital product, where else can Amazon make a difference?

While I like iTunes as jukebox software, I’ve always found the iTS to be a little awkward.  I wish it were more like a web browser, quite frankly.  iTunes should allow some sort of equivalent to multi-window or tabbed windows viewing. 

Amazon’s store experience is much like eMusic’s, which I have used, but don’t do so currently.  That’s not a bad store model, really; supposedly eMusic is still among the top five on-line music stores.  Some say they out-sell “Napster.”

Apart from the hype, it is eMusic that will really take the hit, more than iTunes, I suspect. While I don’t really mind eMusic’s inane subscription policies, as you actually own those mp3s. (But I do mind that your track allowance doesn’t roll over from month to month.  Even my greedy phone service does that—deal breaker for me, eMusic.)  Amazon has simply provided an easier consumer model: 1. no subscription & 2. (some) major labels.  I would worry about eMusic’s long-term survival.

Posted by snowbag on September 28, 2007 at 6:48 AM (PDT)

27

Viswakarma, we’re not talking about drugs here; this is digital music, not corn syrup, not heroin. as for hidden costs. what?? there are no hidden costs. inane statements like that make you sound like an apple executive attempting damage control. if you think that paying less money for the same product is bad for you, then you go ahead and pay fore; as for me, as long as i get the same music in the end, i’m going for the option that allows me to keep more of my money for myself.

since1985, for apple’s sake i hope you are right, but i doubt it. apple can say anything they want, but the fact is, other services offer DRM-free music, and they don’t. i don’t care how ‘restriction-free’ their DRM is; it is still DRM. Amazon doesn’t have DRM; eMusic doesn’t have DRM; why does apple?

Posted by Bradley on September 28, 2007 at 2:48 PM (PDT)

28

Bradley, what planet have you been on?

Apple does offer DRM-free music.  It’s called iTunes Plus.  iTunes Plus was launched May 30, 2007.  In fact, Apple was the first to offer DRM-free music of a major label.  It paved the way for Amazon to do the same.  According to Steve Jobs, “We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year.”

iTunes Plus tracks are 256 kbps AAC.  That’s twice the quality of the 256 kbps MP3 tracks that Amazon sells (even though they are the same bitrate).

This happened after February 6, 2007 when Steve Jobs posted an open letter on Apple’s site calling for the end of DRM, especially from the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI that control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music.

Steve Jobs noted in that letter that DRM was required by the labels not by Apple, even though Apple was able to negotiate landmark usage rights at the time that was unprecedented.

What was the response to Steve Jobs open letter to end DRM?  Warner Music chief executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. said in a call with analysts that the argument to drop DRM is “without logic and merit. We will not abandon DRM.”  In Forbes, Microsoft said it was happy with the way things are and that DRM is important.

Then on April 2, 2007, EMI Music and Steve Jobs announced that EMI would be launching DRM-free superior quality downloads of its entire digital repertoire and that Apple’s iTunes Store will be the first online music store to sell EMI’s new premium downloads.

According to Blackfriars’ Marketing, “Apple now has a deal that proves that Jobs’ claim to oppose DRM is real and differentiates Apple’s services significantly from the draconian DRM restrictions Microsoft places on its music and video… kudos to Jobs and Apple for having the courage to call for the end of DRM and the business drive to make it happen. It’s one small step for music, but one giant leap for consumer fair use rights in the digital age.”

Posted by since1985 on September 28, 2007 at 5:40 PM (PDT)

29

All I want to know is if Universal was so attiment about not selling DRM-free music to iTunes and at a higher price, then why are they doing the very thing Apple asked them to at another vendor? Sure sounds like they are trying to undercut ITS and when its gone they can do what they want. Apple is the only ones standing in there way of them gouging us. All I can say is get it while you can (@ Amazon) but we’ll pay dearly for it in the end when ITS has to concede and the record labels stick it to us like they have so many times before. Its just like everything else in the US these days…short-sighted about the future to save a buck today we’ll give it all to China.

Posted by kmj1 on September 29, 2007 at 12:44 PM (PDT)

30

since1985: “The real tech-savvy know that 256kpbs MP3 is NOT higher quality than 128kpbs AAC.  MP3 is old technology and not as efficient as AAC, which is an open standard.  To get the same quality, MP3 takes up twice the disc space, so you reduce the number of tunes on your device by half.”

Nonsense. Get your facts straight. AAC is no more ‘open’ than mp3. mp3 is not going anywhere. Thanks Emusic and Amazon.

Posted by mp3king on October 2, 2007 at 7:31 AM (PDT)

31

I’m pissed about the whole thing. It undermines iTunes, which is simply being shafted by the record companies. It’s not Apple’s fault that they don’t offer a similar arrangement.

Although I buy almost all of my content on CD, I am concerned about what happens to US iTunes Store, as it affects me here in Australia. All this shake-up with agreements has to be behind why we still haven’t got movies and TV shows here, which I would buy.

For the average consumer, the Amazon store is a good option. The one drawback with any non-iTunes service has been integration and their handler application is a great idea.

Posted by Japester on October 3, 2007 at 8:17 PM (PDT)

32

Yeah, it’s cool. I’m happy to have another option, even though I have no complaints with iTunes or ITS. But, naturally, I went to the store looking for a number of items and either Amazon didn’t have them or they had them, but they were the same price as ITS. Not much incentive for me otherwise.

Posted by urbanslaughter on October 4, 2007 at 2:11 PM (PDT)

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