December 03, 2008

Amazon MP3 store comes to the UK

Follow-up to Amazon MP3 downloads from Autology: John Dale's blog

In September ‘07, I wrote about the US Amazon MP3 store, and noted that it was – for a very short time, as it turned out – available to UK customers.

Now there’s a UK Amazon MP3 store and it looks very promising; millions of tracks, high bit-rate MP3 files with no DRM, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, very reasonable prices, which don’t induce the usual US-UK comparison rage. The new Take That album, for example, is £3, and a random browsing of tracks suggests that a pretty substantial proportion of them come in at 59p, and the majority of the rest at 69p.

Kudos to Amazon: this looks like the best place for UK buyers to shop for legal, unprotected music, beating the iTunes store and other, less high profile competitors such as 7Digital (who are charging £5 for the Take That album, incidentally) by delivering the usual Amazon one-two punch of ease of use (I already have an account there, and my debit and credit cards are already set up ready for me to buy), a huge product range, and competitive pricing.


- 11 comments by 5 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. James Taylor

    £3.00 an album is finally at the sort of pricepoint where it’s just not worth pirating the music. I’d GLADLY pay that for albums I want to own! Looks like they’ve got a pretty good selection to get going with as well.

    Finally.. value and flexibility for the consumer with digital music downloads. It only took.. what.. 9 years?! :)

    03 Dec 2008, 22:43

  2. Mike Willis

    Hmmmm.

    Pros:

    - Legal, some dodgy Russian site with prices.
    - No DRM.
    - Cheap. Significantly cheaper than buying the CD. Significantly cheaper to buy a whole album at once than all the individual tracks separately.
    - Usable on Windows, Mac and Linux. Purchase of individual tracks requires nothing more than a web browser and clicking on the link to the application that you need to buy entire albums results in me being offered packages for 4 different flavours of Linux.
    - Use of variable bit rate encoding with a decently high average of 256kbps.
    - No DRM!

    Cons:

    - “We are currently unable to replace any purchased files that you delete or lose due to a system or disk error.” The vast majority of people never bother to ever back anything up until after they’ve lost something important due to hardware failure or “Really delete this? Yes…..oh crap cancel Cancel CANCEL!” moment. But then even if you buy an album twice at £3 that’s still no more expensive than having bought it on CD.
    - No choice to buy in a lossless format.

    I’ve never bought music digitally but this store might be what changes my mind. The first thing I do when I buy a CD is rip it. I only use CDs in the car and then only because my car lacks an interface to plug in any sort of music player.

    04 Dec 2008, 13:09

  3. John Rawnsley

    I had to try this as I buy iTunes tracks sporadically, and have 1-Click set up on Amazon. I use a Mac and Safari with automatic running of all downloads (even “safe” ones) turned off as I frequently download files on a different machine from the one I want to use them on.

    It took a bit of practice to get searching working for me – I want to view results by album and then select tracks. That breaks large found data sets into digestible chunks. I found a live Tiken Jah Fakoly album I hadn’t seen and a track on it (African a Paris) and purchased it. A .amz file was downloaded. When I double clicked this, the Amazon MP3 Downloader downloaded the file and added it to my iTunes Music library.

    The problem is that if you have a large library, the new downloads can get lost. So I made a smart folder to display songs downloaded within the last day. This makes it easier to create playlists from the downloads or move them into existing playlists.

    It would be nice to have a smart playlist in iTunes for Amazon downloads.

    04 Dec 2008, 15:36

  4. James Taylor

    Legal, some dodgy Russian site with prices.

    It’s Amazon?! Nothing dodgy (or Russian) about it! :)

    04 Dec 2008, 15:53

  5. Mike Willis

    Typing and proof reading Fail. Should have read “Legal, not some dodgy Russian site with prices so cheap they’re suspiciously cheap.”

    04 Dec 2008, 15:58

  6. John Dale

    John, you can make a smart playlist for songs downloaded from Amazon by defining a rule which says Comment field contains ‘Amazon’ – thoughtfully, Amazon have put their name and a song ID in the comments field.

    James, don’t be so sure.

    04 Dec 2008, 16:26

  7. John Rawnsley

    John, thanks. I should have looked :)

    04 Dec 2008, 16:38

  8. Mike Willis

    Cheap. Significantly cheaper than buying the CD. Significantly cheaper to buy a whole album at once than all the individual tracks separately.

    I have to retract that.

    What caught my eye earlier was Only By The Night by Kings Of Leon (released 23rd Sep) which I bought the other week for £5.99 on CD and would have been £6.99 if I’d not had a voucher. In the Amazon MP3 store it’s a mere £3. For me this makes the MP3 purchase a good deal. However, Day & Age by The Killers (released 24th Nov) is £6.49 in the Amazon MP3 store. Go to bangcd.com and you can buy it on CD for only 50p more. So for me that makes the MP3 purchase is a bad buy. I’d still buy the CD because that 50p is well worth it to get a physical object I can use to create an electronic version in any format/quality I want.
    It gets worse though. Kings Of Leon’s previous album, Because Of The Times, is £4.98 on the Amazon MP3 store and that’s what I paid for it on CD, give or take a penny, a few months ago. Go back to their first album, Youth And Young Manhood, and that’s a whopping £7.99 in the MP3 store yet Amazon will sell it you on CD for half that, £3.98.

    So once you stray from the attention grabbing few very recent releases for £3, which is quite possibly just a launch promotion that won’t last, it is not at all significantly cheaper than buying CDs and sometimes it’s as much as 100% more expensive. I am not much less impressed than I was at lunch time.

    04 Dec 2008, 19:32

  9. John Dale

    I think I’d agree, Mike, that if you want to own CDs, then neither Amazon, nor any other digital store (except the dodgy Russian ones) are price competitive. The price for CDs has plummeted so sharply in recent years that they really are an incredible bargain these days. But for myself, I don’t really want to buy the physical disc, because:-

    1. I can’t tell the difference between a 256K or better MP3 and the uncompressed audio on a CD. Not saying that there isn’t one, but my middle-aged, undiscerning ears don’t hear it.
    2. I’m rarely enthusiastic enough about an album to want to own the whole thing. These days, I find I’m much more likely to like two or three tracks from an album, so being able to buy the tracks individually is appealing to me, and tips the pricing back in favour of digital downloads.
    3. I’m unconcerned about the need for a physical CD as a backup strategy, because axiomatically, I already have two separate copies of every MP3 I buy; one on my PC and one on my iPod. (Actually I have others, since I keep my music collection on multiple PCs and also have NAS backups. But even if I didn’t, two physically separate copies would be enough for me.)
    4. I actively don’t want to own more physical artefacts. I’m already short of shelf and cupboard space in my home, and buying more CDs doesn’t help any.

    05 Dec 2008, 03:24

  10. Mathew Mannion

    I was really impressed – bought an album for £3 and for me it’s a viable alternative when I’m looking for back-catalogues for bands I like, but maybe not so much when buying new music. I tend to already buy new CDs from Tesco anyway, which is generally a quid or two more expensive than buying it off of iTunes or otherwise. Downloaded music has always been second class compared to the rest of my collection that I’ve ripped off of CD in the past – if I buy albums off of iTunes then it doesn’t make it as far as my work PC, irritatingly.

    Amazon doesn’t go all the way there since it doesn’t let me run a client that automatically downloads all my purchases to the places I have it installed – after all, I wouldn’t give my amazon password out to anyone since it contains a hell of a lot of important information about me. I’d like to see a more Steam-like model, where something you’ve bought is downloadable wherever you have the client installed, so I can automatically get my music on my laptop, my mac and my work PC without having to faff about with USB keys and whatnot.

    05 Dec 2008, 08:45

  11. John Dale

    Mat, Dropbox is your friend. In the absence of a Steam-like model, it’s the easiest way to make MP3 (or any other) files appear in sync across all your machines.

    (Of course Nick’s java client for Files.Warwick would do the same thing with the added bonus of blinding upload and download speeds when you’re at work – if we ever release it!)

    05 Dec 2008, 09:32


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