Amazon’s MP3 store brings more DRM-free music at lower prices than iTunes Store

Found at Ars Technica:

Amazon has launched a public beta of its long-anticipated digital music download store, offering more than 2 million songs as MP3 files. Those who have been paying attention to the digital music business can probably guess what’s included: tracks from EMI and Universal Music Group, music from another 20,000 independent labels, and $0.99 downloads…

While download stores might have gotten away with encoding music at a 128kbps constant bit rate a year or two ago, that’s not going to fly today, and Amazon knows it. Most tracks are variable bit rate 256kbps MP3 files, though the occasional track is encoded at constant bit rates. Large, high-quality album art comes embedded in each file…

The default song price is $0.99 per track, but the top 100 songs are only $0.89 apiece, and the top 100 albums go for $8.99….

The prices are still a bit too high for me to give up physical CDs anytime soon, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.  Apple has made some steps in the right direction with their “iTunes Plus” program, but Amazon’s got the better deal right now:

  • Cheaper tracks ($0.89/0.99 vs $1.29)
  • MP3 vs. AAC (More compatible, virtually identical quality)
  • No need to use another application (i.e. iTunes) to download

It will be interesting to see where this goes – more competition is good, and Amazon’s definitely a credible competitor.


EMI to offer DRM-free music through iTunes

In what is hopefully the first of many, the EMI record label announced that they will be offering their catalog of music free of DRM (Digital Rights Management) through the iTunes Store. In a nutshell, DRM is technology meant to stop people from copying digital content. On one hand it makes sense because artists should be able to protect their work from wholesale copying and distribution and benefit financially from the fruits of their labor. On the other hand, US copyright law does allow for “fair use”, which means being able to make backup copies for your own personal use – something DRM schemes are meant to limit.

One caveat is that the price of admission has gone up slightly – $1.29 per track as opposed to the previous $.99 per track standard. To dull the sting somewhat, the bitrate of these unprotected tracks has been increased from 128kbps to 256kbps AAC – which is virtually CD quality.

Hopefully the rest of the major labels will get the hint and follow suit. While there will always be people who want to get something for nothing, I think most people would be willing to pay for what they use as long as they aren’t subject to unfair restrictions.