Amazon launches music download killer to challenge iTunes

amazon mp3

But will it actually take much of a bite out of the Apple?

More than 2 million songs – including those by Amy Winehouse, U2 and 50 Cent – will be made available for download from Amazon’s US site, with tracks costing either .89 cents or .99 cents, and albums between $5.99 and $9.99.

The songs are set to be sold through a store called ‘Amazon MP3’. It will have no copy protection technology attached (HUZZAH!) meaning the songs can be played on a variety of devices and not just Apple’s iPod.  Hmmm…$1.29 versus .99 cents (ok, more like .99 vs .89 for most songs). Maybe Amazon is on to something there?

Major music labels Universal Music Group and EMI Music have signed on to sell their tracks on Amazon, as have thousands of independent labels but they still lack several of the biggest labels such as Warner Music Group Corp. and Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president for digital music, said some record labels add a digital watermark to MP3 files that indicate what company sold the song and Amazon adds its own name and the item number of the song for ‘customer service purposes’. He added that no details about the buyer or the transaction are added to the downloaded music file.  Yeah, sure.  We trust you buddy.  About as far as I can throw a truck load of ipods.

If you love music you tend to want a permanent copy but music bought from iTunes is fundamentally shackled: Nearly everything you purchase from the store will never work on any device not made by Apple.  Good for them.  Sucks for you. If they just didn’t make it so dang easy and seamless to buy the stuff…

Most of the tracks on iTunes are gummed up by Apple’s copy-protection scheme, called FairPlay. Under these restrictions, you can put your songs on just five computers at a time; make only seven CD copies of a particular playlist; and, if you want to go mobile, the iPod and iPhone are your only option.

Considering overall selection –  Apple’s iTunes has Amazon by the short hairs :  6 million songs vs 2 million.  Not even close.  But Amazone is just getting started and competition is a GOOD thing folks.  If all Amazon’s play does is make iTunes a better and lesss expensive experience…it’s all good.


Filed under Apple, Apple Mac, Computing, Internet, Marketing, Media, Music

7 responses to “Amazon launches music download killer to challenge iTunes

  1. James Bailey

    You do know that FairPlay is only on files where it is required by the labels, right? You do know that the 1.29 price was also forced on Apple by EMI, right? Apple and Steve Jobs have asked all music labels to drop their DRM requirements.

    The simple reason that iTunes has 6 million vs. 2 million tracks is because the other 4 million haven’t been allowed to be released without DRM. Are you going to blame Amazon or Sony, Universal and the other members of the music cartel?

  2. mark

    Do note that Universal’s DRM-free songs are only on Amazon as part of a trial, and could disappear early next year, or could appear with a new price once Universal feels confident enough to walk away from the 99 cent point because iTunes’ dominance has been broken. Amazon seems willing to sell songs at any price the labels ask of it.

    So do note that some songs on Amazon are 1.94, going all the way up to 3.87. That’s songs, not albums. Those prices are likely set by the labels, not by Amazon.

    And do note that Universal refused to offer its DRM-free songs to Apple because Apple refuses to budge from its 99 cents-is-the-highest-price-for-a-single rule. However, Universal couldn’t even speak the truth but instead had to phrase its refusal as being a “control” for its experiment. The experiment being conducted to break Apple’s online dominance and its push for DRM-free music.

    So go ahead and buy from Amazon. Just recognize that there could be unintended consequences come 2008.

  3. nineslashes

    I think Amazon and iTunes are struggling in same league, but with different intensions. Amazon approaches the consumers with a really wide product range while iTunes is focused in downloads, music, audiobooks etc. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Amazon is really challenging iTunes here, this may be more a move to strengthen Amazon’s place. There’s a long way to go before iTunes steps down and something else takes the lead.

  4. Marc

    Competition is a good thing. Certainly it will be good for Apple as it goes into the EU hearings. It also ensures that there will be plenty of content for the iPod, the main point of the iTunes store. Hopefully it will encourage the other labels to start selling DRM-free music. Or maybe it will make the other labels grateful for the minimal protection the Fair Play provides.

    Unless you feel that Universal’s beef with Apple is that iTunes prices are too high, I expect at some point to find that these are the “introductory” prices. At best, Universal will have an outlet where it can sell it’s new releases first at a higher “value” price. At worst, iTunes will start selling music at 89 cents (since it has the contractual right to set any price it wants) and the music industry will blame Universal for that.

    My feeling is that Apple believes in its products. iTunes will continue to sell songs for 99 cents and people will continue to buy iPods like crazy.
    TIZMANIAN: I agree with you there, Marc! Regardless of what Amazon tries to do, Apple still wins. Hopefully, as consumers, we’ll all get some of the benefit as well.

  5. quixotequest

    The operative word in all this is “hopefully”. The cartel is doing its damnedest best to retain control as the new paradigm of digital distribution expands and they dogheadedly refuse to innovate. This isn’t about breaking Apple’s monopoly for the benefit of customers. This is the we’ll-sue-the-pants-off-even-the-smallest-of-our-customers Big Music looking for a distribution option that is more supportive of their price-fixing efforts. Apple’s definitely no victim, to be sure, but this Amazon deal is a Trojan Horse.

  6. Ithink Job’s clearly would like to offer DRM free music but the record company’s hold them hostage by with drawing there catalogs. iTunes has set apricing standed that’s hard but fair.

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