Confession: I still buy my music online instead of torrenting it. And after years of enduring an unfulfilling relationship with iTunes, last month I finally broke things off. I headed over to Amazon. I haven't looked back yet.
It all started when I was browsing for some holiday gifts a few weeks back. Somewhere down the Amazon rabbit hole was this: Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for five bucks. Five! One-click purchase, please. And even though that deal has passed by, it's still selling for $9 on Amazon, compared to $12 on iTunes. And these type of deals have been going on for months?
Sure, that's just one album. And here are 1,306 others that are all priced at $5.00 now through January. And these aren't B-sides. These are Cee-lo, Pink Floyd, CCR, The Black Keys, Prince, Phoenix. It's a bonanza.
And that's just full-length albums. Singles fare pretty well, too, with most titles hitting the $0.99 mark (compared to the $1.29 iTunes standard). You can find some goodies, though, listed at just $0.69. It's also easy, easy, easy. Amazon's got its own MP3 Downloader that'll automagically shuttle your songs straight on over to iTunes (or whatever media player you prefer) without your having to drag and drop. Not to mention you can load it onto your Android device, or your Zune. My goodness, you can even play it on a Sansa. Swoon.
I kind of wish this were a philosophical point, or a principled one. Then I'd be saying something important, or maybe even controversial. But! My heart and mind couldn't care less about where I get my music from. It's my wallet that's calling the shots.
Here's the deal. Two out of every three digital downloads in this country go through iTunes, according to the NPD Group. Apple's the king of a very tall hill. So to make up ground quickly, Amazon's doing what it's aways done better than anyone else: undercutting. Using its massive scale and bargaining power to offer songs and (especially) albums at absurdly low prices. Even, as the WSJ pointed out recently, at a loss to them. Which becomes your gain.
Okay, it's not all roses and pancakes. The selection supposedly isn't quite as robust as iTunes, although I haven't yet looked for an album I wanted and not found it. iTunes are formatted in AAC instead of MP3, which may mean slightly better sound quality. And you'll have to live without 90-second previews. And honestly a subscription service like Rdio, or Spotify (if it ever gets here) might pull me away from Amazon someday. But for now, for those monthly $5 and daily $4 album deals? Worth it.