Amazon MP3 Store

This post is obsolete and screenshots have been removed.

There was a lot of hype when Amazon began selling MP3 song downloads. Some even used the dreaded “iTunes Store Killer” phrase.

There’s certainly a lot to like about the Amazon MP3 store from a features point of view:

  • Un-DRM’d MP3 music downloads.
  • 256kbps encoding. (Actually it’s Variable Bit Rate encoding)
  • Lower cost – $8.99 for top 100 albums compared to iTunes typical $9.99. $0.89 per top 100 song compared to iTunes $1.29 for the un-DRM’d songs.

Since Amazon only sells un-DRM’d songs they have a smaller selection than iTunes. It’s a subjective opinion, but the iTunes store is easier to browse than the Amazon store.

At first I was unhappy to see Amazon wanted to use a helper program. But it’s only needed if you want to buy full albums. Upon further research it seemed unobtrusive and actually helpful by adding the downloaded songs to iTunes automatically (or Windows Media Player if you so desire). There are Windows and Mac versions. I installed the Mac version and it was just like installing any other Mac software. When your done your brought to a page where you can download a free song to test the installation.

I decided to buy OK Computer by Radiohead to give the store a try. It couldn’t be any easier. The album (and all song) purchases are made via one-click ordering. So for better or worse, you click the button and you own it, no chance for buyer’s remorse. The helper app automatically downloaded the songs and added them to iTunes.

All the usual tag information is populated. Unless you have your own standards the pre-filled information is probably all you need. The screenshots below show the free song after being automatically imported into iTunes.

 

You can also build a smart playlist to track your Amazon purchases similar to the built-in Purchase playlist. Amazon adds “Amazon.com Song ID:” to the comment field of each song. You can create a smart playlist to contain all these songs. Click the thumbnail to see the smart playlist settings.

There was some discussion about the watermarking of downloaded songs. Some record companies do watermark the files to tie them to Amazon, but Amazon says they don’t watermark the songs with any user info. Of course, future deals with record companies may change this.

Amazon’s MP3 store has a long way to go before it becomes a iTunes Store killer but it could become a solid number 2, ahead of Walmart and others. Amazon works on Mac and Windows, their software provides easy integration with iTunes or Windows Media Player and they don’t use DRM, all of which combines for a pleasant experience.

All they need is a bigger selection which all depends on what the record companies want more – competition for Apple or DRM. I’ll be visiting Amazon before buying any new music and even iTunes fans have to be pleased to see serious competition for iTunes.