Amazon creates gigantic DRM-free music store!

Amazon is selling 2,000,000 tracks as DRM-free MP3s!
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today launched a public beta of "Amazon MP3," a new digital music download store with Earth's biggest selection of a la carte DRM-free MP3 music downloads. Amazon MP3 has over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists represented by over 20,000 major and independent labels. Amazon MP3 complements Amazon.com's existing selection of over 1 million CDs to now offer customers more selection of physical and digital music than any other retailer.

"Amazon MP3 is an all-MP3, DRM-free catalog of a la carte music from major labels and independent labels, playable on any device, in high-quality audio, at low prices," said Bill Carr, Amazon.com Vice President for Digital Music. "This new digital music service has already been through an extensive private beta, and today we're excited to offer it to our customers as a fully functional public beta. We look forward to receiving feedback from our customers and using their input to refine the service."

Every song and album on Amazon MP3 is available exclusively in the MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) software. This means that Amazon MP3 customers are free to enjoy their music downloads using any hardware device, including PCs, Macs™, iPods™, Zunes™, Zens™, iPhones™, RAZRs™, and BlackBerrys™; organize their music using any music management application such as iTunes™ or Windows Media Player™; and burn songs to CDs.

Link (via Engadget)

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  1. Now all amazon has to do is skip the label middle men and allow direct artist accounts so bands can sell their tunes direct. I would rather spend cash on a publicist than to have to pay for my own packaging.

  2. Wow, some big licensing differences between this and iTunes. For instance, AMZN have a ton of Radiohead albums, where iTunes has zippo! Led Zep searches still turn up karaoke and lullabies. Drat.

  3. At $.99 / song or ~$9 / album? Thank god. I was getting sick of iTunes and alternative shady services. There’s no reason to require Quicktime + iTunes and its 10 bazillion background processes (WTF is iTunesHelper.exe?!) when I just want to listen to a Godspeed You Black Emperor track. I hope this lasts, and that it makes waves through the industry.

  4. While 2 million MP3s is nothing to scoff at, I’d still have to say “too little, too late.” The world of online music piracy has become so comprehensive in its selection, quality – and in a handful of cases – security, it’s tough to see myself and like-minded souls ever willfully making the switch to an inferior pay-service. If I am to buy music, it is generally directly from the band (if possible) as a hard copy.

    The fact is, what Amazon is offering in late 2007 should have been available almost a decade ago when the industry first saw Napster skyrocket in popularity.

    Regardless, I can’t say I dislike witnessing the slow death of DRM by way of good old fashioned market pressure.

  5. @ Peter Swimm

    I don’t think you’ll see that any time remotely soon. Amazon has its own reputation to maintain, and they rely on labels to provide them with “quality” music. A large conglomerate like that doesn’t really have time to pick and choose from an endless stream of indie bands. It would be nice to see them open up to some lesser known labels, though.

  6. Seemed really great, until it demanded a US billing address right before checkout. Would have been nice if they’d been more upfront about that requirement.

  7. What’s with requiring their downloader for album sales, though? And it says it integrates the music with windows media player, which is something I actively don’t want (I don’t use that one). It specifically refers you to individual song sales if you don’t want to use their downloader, so is there some sort of album-level DRM still going on?

  8. @RadioGuy

    More digital content does take up more shelf space in terms of storage and bandwidth. That stuff isn’t cheap when you’ve got millions of users.

    Added to that, there are the logistical challenges of securing rights to sell, dealing (very likely) with agents for said bands, making sure bands get paid, making sure the posted music meets some standard of quality (highly subjective, of course), developing software to support a scalable selling system anyone can sign up for… I could go on. I’d wager all that is probably more of an expense than storage/bandwidth, and that you might as well consider that to be part of the virtual “shelf space.”

  9. Of all the business ventures that have stepped up in a hope to compete with iTunes, I think this may be the one that actually gives Steve Jobs cause for concern.

    The only reasons iTunes’ closest competitor, eMusic, is such a distant second (as far as my market knowledge goes) is:

    1. Barrier to entry in the form of committing to a subscription.

    2. Subscription uses monthly credits that don’t roll over.

    3. Lackluster label support (and for some reason, even the indie catalog is never up to date).

    It looks like Amazon’s offering addresses each of these. Add the fact that almost no one who buys anything at all online even needs to sign up, and their position starts to look pretty good.

    I’m excited. Very excited.

  10. Great now I can actually use downloaded music I’ve bought and paid for on my JAILED $450 phone and multiple computers & laptops at the same time… what a concept!

    Imagine if you could choose ringtone for only 10 cents more!!

  11. Well, this is stupid:

    “… If you wish to purchase an entire album, you are required to use the Amazon MP3 Downloader available for Windows XP or Vista and Mac OS X 10.4 or higher. …”

    I think we can all take pretty good guesses as to why they intentionally make it more expensive for non-Windows/Mac users to by albums. If you can buy the album for around $9, you pay more in the sum of the individual songs that comprise the album.

    DRM-free gooooood, pandering to Microsoft and Apple baaaaaaad.

  12. @jacobdavis

    I can see your points — the infrastructure certainly isn’t free — but I still think the profits from one or two successful indie artists would more than cover the costs for the rest.

    Then again, I tend to see the internet as fundamentally egalitarian in nature, and I always hope corporations will embrace that when they have the opportunity.

    Quality-control is still an issue (as you noted), but in my mind it’s not an insurmountable one.

  13. “Seemed really great, until it demanded a US billing address right before checkout. Would have been nice if they’d been more upfront about that requirement.”

    It did say it just a couple of clicks in. It is ‘up front’ but granted it’s rather small.

    *sigh* Living somewhere other than the United States really bites sometimes. I WANT to buy DRM-free music… I REALLY DO!

    -g (from Canada)

  14. PLEASE NOTE: You do not have to use the downloader applicatoin. It’s optional. If you want you can skip the install and buy the Mp3 and download it directly to your file system. It works great on Ubuntu Linux running Firefox. No problems. This kicks! Buy MP3, download it. Play it ANYWHERE. This is what everyone wanted. Now, they just need to get all the labels on board and iTunes will die if it doesn’t follow suit.

  15. Another question is whether Amazon is attaching any information to the file that can allow the purchaser to be tracked, say, if that file wound up on a peer-to-peer network somewhere.

  16. @Twoshort:

    I may be old-fashioned, but I like to be able to prove I’ve bought something, especially when talking about stuff that’s regularly pirated. Say RIAA decides to sue me. Apparently being guilty is not something they worry about too much.

    That’s actually one of the few good bits about DRM. The file is linked to my account.

  17. This is a step forward although 4-6 years behind schedule.

    Copyright laws still prevent me from buying an album and sending even one track to a friend, right?

  18. Also, there are some countries (England and, even worse now, Germany) where it is illegal to have digital copies of music. I don’t know what the legal status of purchased mp3s is there.

  19. Just spent over an hour and half on my first album download w/ Amazon MP3 what a mess, they have a lot of work to do on the delivery of the files, would not recommend to anyone until they work all the glitches out.

  20. For those of you outside the USA:

    To buy some music, enter your regular billing address for your credit card, choose TX as your state 78503 as your Zip code, and bingo your order is processed… Dont know if this is a bug that will be ironed out later but i did buy some Jimmy Buffet music this way.. I’m in Mexico BTW…

  21. Somebody on ubuntuforums claims that a linux downloader program is on the way.

    I’d prefer not to have to run special software, but at least I’d be getting the same deal as win/osx users.

  22. Finally. I’m very glad Amazon seems to be providing a good iTunes alternative, as Apple was getting way too close to monopoly power and complete device lock-in.

  23. At last we’ve got some real competition for iTMS with a product thats actually worth buying. 256Kbps VBR non-DRM MP3 is a good enough format. And there’s quite a lot of whole albums available at well below the $0.89 per track.

    What we need next is a good old fashioned price war until the price drops to AllOfMp3 levels. Somewhere around there is a price point that can compete with free.

  24. Yes, according to Amazon’s FAQ a “A Linux version is in development.” Now, to see if they follow through…

  25. Unlike Apple: Terms of service:

    “All Sales Final; Downloading and Risk of Loss; Availability of Digital Content. All sales of Digital Content are final. We do not accept returns of Digital Content. Once you have purchased Digital Content, we encourage you to download it promptly and to make back-up copies of it…. You bear all risk of loss after purchase.”

    Keep the cakebox handy.

  26. I’m very happy about this. Hopefully they do roll out the album downloader for Linux soon, there are some good deals there.

    The files are well tagged including composer and copyright information. There is also an Amazon Song ID # included in the comments tag.

  27. This from theregister.co.uk:

    Amazon applies “fingerprints” rather than “locks” to music, the idea being that music exchanges can be tracked at a later date, rather than prevented from the outset. Files are encoded in the (old) MP3 format, at 256 kbps bit rate.

  28. Well, it’s nice that we can finally get DRM-free MP3s of major label content legally. Still, it annoys me that when you buy an MP3 from Amazon you’re not really buying the MP3, you’re just buying a “non-exclusive, non-transferable license” to use the MP3 (according to this Arstechnica article). The Artechnica article also points out the in some cases MP3 albums more expensive than the same music in CD form.

  29. Don’t think I’ll be buying full albums, but they’ve got David Bowie’s catalog up, and there are a few singles I wouldn’t mind having.

  30. “2.1 License. Upon your payment of our fees for Digital Content, we grant you a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the Digital Content for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use, subject to and in accordance with the terms of this Agreement. You may copy, store, transfer and burn the Digital Content only for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use.

    2.2 Restrictions. You represent, warrant and agree that you will use the Service only for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use and not for any redistribution of the Digital Content or other use restricted in this Section 2.2. You agree not to infringe the rights of the Digital Content’s copyright owners and to comply with all applicable laws in your use of the Digital Content. Except as set forth in Section 2.1 above, you agree that you will not redistribute, transmit, assign, sell, broadcast, rent, share, lend, modify, adapt, edit, sub-license or otherwise transfer or use the Digital Content. You are not granted any synchronization, public performance, promotional use, commercial sale, resale, reproduction or distribution rights for the Digital Content. You acknowledge that the Digital Content embodies the intellectual property of a third party and is protected by law.”

    So, can a DJ (radio or club) legally play these songs?

  31. Amazon: an innovator, once again.

    Too bad there’s still the “we own it, you’re just renting” mentality, but un-DRM’d tracks in itself is huge!

  32. Cory, I think I’m a little more pedantic than you are.

    Since various other sources indicate at least some are watermarked, I wouldn’t call them DRM free. They’re just using a passive form of DRM instead of an active one.

  33. mTraks.com has DRM-free 192 kbps mp3s available a la carte or by subscription like on emusic but mTraks is an open site, so you are not forced to subscribe. songs are 99 cents a la carte and if you subscribe as little as 27 cents. they have the entire IODA catalog available. Peace, Out!

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