updated 11:20 am EDT, Tue September 25, 2007
Amazon today launched its long-delayed digital music store, offering one of the first major, completely DRM-free music stores beyond eMusic. Now known as Amazon MP3, the service offers every one of its songs as 256Kbps MP3s, allowing both owners of iPods and Zunes alike to buy music from the store with knowledge that it will work on their players and with audio quality above many competing stores. In contrast to some DRM-free outlets, the store will also have a large catalog courtesy of EMI's new DRM-free policy as well as Universal's pilot project that trials DRM-free content. Over 20,000 independent labels are also onboard, while major labels include previous holdout artists such as Radiohead, Amazon says. To streamline the process, the company lets its 1-click buying process work with tracks and offers an MP3 Downloader program that automatically shuttles songs to either iTunes or Windows Media Player.
Official pricing is also extremely low, confirming claims made by the New York Post last month. While exceptions are allowed in the price system, most tracks are either 89 or 99 cents with more than half of the entire two million songs on the store selling for 89 cents. Most albums also top out at $10 with some costing as little as $6, according to Amazon. The pricing contrasts sharply with iTunes, where iTunes Plus tracks sell for $1.29 each.
Amazon MP3 is described as being in public beta, but is also fully functional and readily accessible to anyone with an Amazon account. The company does not say when it expects the store to leave the beta phase but asks customers to provide feedback on the initial experience to help for the final launch.