Amazon’s DRM-Free MP3s


Amazon has been fairly effective in using its platform — recall they were originally a  book store — as a launching pad for other ideas and online business concepts.

The latest brainchild? Digital music downloads, challenging Apple’s
iTunes via DRM free MP3s (now with variable pricing!)

As we have seen, none of the previous challenger shave managed to dent Apple’s dominance in digital music. Wal-Mart? Gone. Real, eMusic, Sandisk? Pshaw. And what about the mighty Zune? Don’t make me laugh.

All that said, Amazon’s MP3 store, now in public beta testing, has quite a few things going for it:

1) Embedded purchases right in the Amazon CD pages, complete with all
of the things — reviews, commentary, etc. — that make Amazon an enjoyable
online shopping experience.

2) Music that can be
played on and freely moved between multiple devices

3) ~2 million songs (1/3 of iTunes)
from independent labels, EMI Universal Music Group.

4) Songs
encoded at 256kbps (higher quality);

5) Priced from 89 to 99 cents, with
albums $5.99 to $9.99.

6) Oh, and music free of digital rights management restrictions

If nothing else, this is proof that the digital download business is maturing, and that Apple’s competition will be continually challenging their dominance.

I can’t say I will be using this much — I prefer to buy CDs, rip them myself, make a few backup copies, then store the original somewhere safe  — but its an intriguing concept.


I almost bought this song — First Night — but instead, bought the full CD, Boys and Girls in America. Go figure . . . 

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Steve Johnson commented on Sep 26

    There was an article, I believe in the WSJ, about MP3 sacrificing quality to compression. Many modern artists are gearing their work to sound good on MP3. You’re correct to stick with CD.

  2. critical thought commented on Sep 26

    I just love the hold steady….what a great great band…fantastic album. Enjoy.

  3. Ron commented on Sep 26

    I do the same thing – buy the CD, rip it, then put it in the attic. Only one difference, I buy them used on Amazon, usually for $2.99 or so. If you can wait a week for the disc to arrive, this is the best way to go.

    I do have to say that I love Amazon, it has great service. If anyone can get a good competing MP3 service working successfully, it’s them.

  4. yoshi commented on Sep 27

    I haven’t bought a CD in over 5 years. MP3 is a lossy compression mechanism but at 256kb its highly unlikely you will notice any difference from CD.

    I just bought Nora Jones last album from Amazon and it automatically imported into iTunes and my iPod was updated. Flawless. This is the first serious competition for iTunes and it appears that the music industry is finally getting a clue that DRM does not work. It also is the last of the few nails needed in the coffin of the physical media format (i.e. CD). Expect the CD to slowly join the album in the dustbins of history.

  5. Chocolate Thunder commented on Sep 27

    I can’t imagine a future where music downloads won’t be free and ad supported. In light of last week’s Southern CA ruling shooting down an RIAA lawsuit as “boilerplate.” I think these days are closer than you might think…

  6. tom b commented on Sep 27

    “I can’t say I will be using this much — I prefer to buy CDs, rip them myself,”

    As do most people, if you believe Steve jobs.

    I think Amazon has avoided a number of the mistakes that doomed previous services. The DRM-free is good. They are using MP3, not some nasty format like WMA that isn’t iPod-friendly. And the price is right. They might last longer than the previous challengers. Assuming Apple doesn’t slash iTMS prices to cut the legs from beneath Amazon….

  7. a guy called john commented on Sep 27

    aaah, the hold steady. if you get a chance to see ’em, go!

  8. KP commented on Sep 27

    Jeff Macke has a piece on Amazon on Minyanville…..FYI

    Cliff’s notes: Don’t underestimate them. I agree.

    If someone over there could actually further develop and market the brand, the sky is the limit.

  9. Pam commented on Sep 27

    I get most of my current albums from emusic.
    I wonder if you understand that it’s an all mp3 download to own service that’s doing well.
    For $10 a month you get to download 30 tracks in the basic plan.
    The sound quality is excellent, vbr, and there is no limit on burns.

  10. bigboy commented on Sep 27

    Too bad about the compression rate…

    I wish they used WMA around 200 bitrate, that would be much closer to CD quality (not to mention a smaller file). This way – I am not really interested.

    However this IS a great sign, more services are bound to follow suit.

  11. Michael Donnelly commented on Sep 27

    Barry you fork over double digits for a CD that contains at best 5 good songs? Wow.

    How can you afford that? Oh I forgot

    Your blog,, is worth $740,111.94

    Last I checked about a year ago, it was worth “only” 1/2 million.

    Nice work !

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