Amazon Jumps Headfirst into DRM-Free Music Download Market with 12,000 Record Labels

Illustration for article titled Amazon Jumps Headfirst into DRM-Free Music Download Market with 12,000 Record Labels

Amazon's joining the ranks of DRM-free music distributors with the launch of an MP3-only download store that will offer "millions of songs" from "more than 12,000 record labels" with no copy protections whatsoever. Leading those labels, naturally, is the record industry's DRM-free town bicycle, EMI, who is curiously the only label mentioned by name of the 12,000, so we can bet no other majors are on board. Yet, anyway.

The MP3-only move is an obvious swipe at Apple, who is offering their DRM-free tracks in AAC. (Jeff Bezos: "Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device.")

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Of course, a real swipe at Apple would be to offer the tracks for 99 cents, undercutting them by roughly 25 percent, but no price or launch date was mentioned by Amazon. Of course, you'll know when we do. Regardless, the music download market's starting to get real interesting.

Let's just hope Amazon has the balls to take it up a notch. Or rather, down a notch. 99 cents. Come on, guys, make yourselves a real competitor against iTunes and kick-start the market. The sooner we get this going, the better for all of us: consumers, distributors, the industry, and the artists.

Update: According to a rep, neither pricing nor other labels will be announced until launch "later this year." Looks like an end-of-the-month, surprise head-to-head showdown with Apple is out of the cards, so Amazon better have something slammin' up their sleeve with the lead time iTunes is going to have on them.

Press Release [Amazon]

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DISCUSSION

I am not certain where the complaints about MP3 sound quality come from (maybe from recording at too low of a bit rate?), but all of the independent tests I have seen show that the quality from 192K up on MP3 is as good or better than any other compression format. Looking briefly at PC Mag I dug up this story that compares MP3 to CD, and at 192K, even on high quality audio equipment, you can not tell the difference.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,175…

Of course, I am assuming that Amazon releases their DRM-free MP3 tunes at 192K or better. If not, shame on them.