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Amazon gets into the online music business with unprotected MP3s

In yet another blow to the foundations of DRM protected music, today announced it will launch a digital music store later this year offering millions of songs in MP3 format from more than 12,000 record labels.

Amazon’s DRM-free MP3s will free customers to play their music on virtually any of their personal devices — including PCs, Macs, iPods, Zunes, Zens — and to burn songs to CDs for personal use.

“Our MP3-only strategy means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO. “We’re excited to have EMI joining us in this effort and look forward to offering our customers MP3s from amazing artists like Coldplay, Norah Jones and Joss Stone.”

EMI also announced that it has reached an agreement with to put its entire digital catalogue in the new digital music store. The agreement follows EMI's launch last month of its new premium download offering, in which the company began offering retailers DRM-free music to sell in the audio format of their choice.

“ is known around the world for the unique experience it offers music customers through features such as customer reviews and personalized recommendations,” said Eric Nicoli, EMI CEO. “They have been an important retail partner of ours, and we are delighted they will be offering consumers EMI’s new premium DRM-free downloads in their new digital music store. We think having a trusted destination like offer a high-quality digital music product that will play across a number of devices gives consumers more options and will be a significant boost for the overall digital music market.”

Amazon may be the biggest challenger yet to Apple’s iTunes and iPod combo. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, points out that Amazon understands the online space and how to sell a lot of music. The iPod is still the most popular music player on the market, which could present Amazon with the challenge of how to pry those users away from iTunes. “If all they're doing is providing the same stuff at the same price point, that's going to be a challenge for getting to iPod owners,” said Gartenberg. “This can work on an iPod, but they still have to differentiate it from Apple.”

Apple’s iTunes has recently been shedding its DRM chains, perhaps because of the views of Steve Jobs, who wrote in February a manifesto of sorts seeking to abolish the restrictions of digital rights management.

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Download Services will need more features
By AnnihilatorX on 5/17/2007 7:58:11 AM , Rating: 3
While I praise the DRM-free wagon
I personally will never download music from website unless they offer:

1. Loseless Encoded music files in form of FLAC/APE/WAV
2. Correctly encoded ID3Tagging in unicode if applicable
3. Album images download
4. Optional extras such as lrc synchronized lyrics files

Since otherwise I can get from a CD.
Perhaps I am asking too much but these are things I'll pay premium for over CDs even

By blaster5k on 5/17/2007 8:21:36 AM , Rating: 2
I second what you said basically. If I were listening on just an iPod or computer speakers, lossy formats would be fine, but with a good sound system, you lose a lot -- and you don't lose that when you buy CDs. I don't see why we need to take a step backwards on audio quality and features when we go with digital music.

RE: Download Services will need more features
By bigboxes on 5/17/2007 10:03:29 AM , Rating: 3
Meh. I'll keep on ripping in Hi-Qual VBR and 320kbps mp3. You lossless nazis are overly anal. My ears cannot tell the difference. I can tell the difference when between 320 and 128, but usually 128 is acceptable for normal volumes. It's more about the source than it is the bitrate. Go ahead and encode everything in FLAC and when I acquire it I'll convert it to 320. In fact, this isn't about you lossless nazis. You'll all be buying the disc anyways. This is about Amazon giving the people what they want --- non-DRM mp3's that are web-based. I'm sure that the vinyl fanatics HATE your FLAC digital copies anyways. :)

By AnnihilatorX on 5/17/2007 2:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
It differs from person to person and the musical type

I can tell the difference of 60% of my musical collection from a 320kbps mp3 versions of them

My friend's ear is even more sensitive than mine

RE: Download Services will need more features
By Azsen on 5/17/2007 6:05:13 PM , Rating: 2
Meh. I'll keep on ripping in Hi-Qual VBR and 320kbps mp3. You lossless nazis are overly anal. My ears cannot tell the difference.

Your ears clearly don't work properly or you have poor quality speakers/headphones. Let me tell you that if you did have good quality gear, you wouldn't be so keen to listen to your MP3s anymore.

By TomZ on 5/17/2007 9:48:11 PM , Rating: 1
That is absolute nonsense - and pure hubris. High bitrate MP3's are indistinguishable from lossless compression for all but the most discerning, trained listeners with very high-quality equipment. In blind tests, even discerning listeners can't always tell the difference. You might find this article interesting, for example:

By VIAN on 5/17/2007 9:58:49 PM , Rating: 2
Well what kind of equipment do we need to notice the differnce? Meaning, how much money? Probably too much. And most people don't care enough about music to throw that kind of cash down for something barely noticeable.

I tried to notice the difference on my Klipsch Promedia 2.1 setup and I couldn't tell the difference. Also, it may depend on what type of music. One type of music may not have such a great benefit in comparison to another type of music.

By SmokeRngs on 5/18/2007 1:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
Meh. I'll keep on ripping in Hi-Qual VBR and 320kbps mp3. You lossless nazis are overly anal. My ears cannot tell the difference. I can tell the difference when between 320 and 128

I would have to agree that you probably have something wrong with your hearing if you're looking for differences and can't find any. I have bad hearing and the difference between an mp3 encoded file and lossless encoded file (or the original CD source) with ease. Then again, I can tell the difference between 128 and 160 and 192 and 224. To me it seems to keep the same fuzziness from there up to 320.

You do not need high end equipment to notice a difference either. I have a Creative Labs 5.1 analog speaker setup on my main computer running off the onboard audio. I hear it on that setup plain as day. Considering the high end on those speakers is practically non-existent, that's saying something.

I can hear the difference more clearly in my car. I have aftermarket parts for the stereo which are better than most stock but by no means high quality. The headunit is over seven years old, the door speakers are cheap two way Pioneers, the rear deck speakers are decent Alpine and the sub is prone to distortion. I can easily tell the difference between mp3 based and lossless based audio. The sounds sound much crisper and less muffled, I do not hear whining and screeching on the high end (unless it's just one of the much too common shitty CDs which have the level turned so high everything sounds like shit anyway).

Bitrate matters. Lossless audio will never be better than the original audio but it's not worse either. I can tell that mp3 audio is worse than the original.

Oh, and I like vinyl albums. I still think they have a better sound and range than your typical CD. Then again, vinyl hasn't been "digitally remastered" to screaming high volume levels which ruins the sound for the purpose of trying to blast someone out of their seat. Man, I hate clipping.

By bravacentauri83 on 5/17/2007 10:14:22 AM , Rating: 3
1. Loseless Encoded music files in form of FLAC/APE/WAV

There wouldn't be enough of a demand for those formats. Gotta remember that most consumers are only familiar with MP3s.

My wish would be to be able to re-download music that you already purchased in case you mistakenly delete or the hard drive crashes.

RE: Download Services will need more features
By BladeVenom on 5/17/2007 10:20:58 AM , Rating: 2
Even better would be to let people decide the format and quality and charge them by bandwidth usage.

By Tamale on 5/17/2007 11:06:18 AM , Rating: 2
ding ding ding

RE: Download Services will need more features
By Nesretep on 5/17/2007 12:17:55 PM , Rating: 2 is setup much like what you are describing. You can pick from a few different formats and select from a myriad of bitrates. You then pay for the music based of the size of the file you are downloading.

By Hoser McMoose on 5/17/2007 5:22:33 PM , Rating: 3
Only problem there is that is blatantly in violation of both Russian and international copyright laws.

If you're gonna break the law, why not just steal the CD? :)

By MonkeyPaw on 5/17/2007 10:25:18 AM , Rating: 2
Walmart's music service allows free redownloading. Not sure about the others, though.

By tk109 on 5/17/2007 11:37:18 AM , Rating: 2
You can get lossless from

Linn records has master quality audiophile downloads on their site.

So it is out there and there is a demand. I think as bandwidth gets higher and storage space gets higher for portables we will probably see more of this.

By Sebec on 5/17/2007 11:48:45 AM , Rating: 2
2. Correctly encoded ID3Tagging in unicode if applicable

That would be important to me too, since I listen to a lot of music that isn't in English.

By VIAN on 5/17/2007 9:53:45 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe a little too much, Idk. I would be fine with:

1. at least 320kbps.
2. no DRM.
3. still just $0.99

By tacoburrito on 5/17/2007 11:53:37 AM , Rating: 2
All you music geeks have heard of, right? They have been around for a few years now and their songs are always DRM-free.

RE: Allofmp3
By johnsonx on 5/17/2007 1:08:27 PM , Rating: 1
But isn't Allofmp3 effectively selling pirated music? Pirate or not as your conscience dictates, but why PAY for pirated material? If I'm going to pay for something, then I want it to be legit.

RE: Allofmp3
By ninjit on 5/17/2007 1:17:30 PM , Rating: 2
They aren't pirates, they pay royalties to the Russian collection agency just like anyone else, so they are perfectly legit.

The problem that RIAA is crying foul about, is that there are no digital download specific rules for royalty payments, so Allofmp3 pays its dues according to internet streaming laws, which is why they can offer the music so cheaply.

I think royalty payments amount to some percentage of a companies gross revenue for internet streaming.

Which is how it is here in the US at the moment, but they just changed that, and now streaming companies have to pay a standard charge per listener, per song. Which is going to close down most of the good small internet radio stations (like SomaFM).

RE: Allofmp3
By PaxtonFettel on 5/17/2007 4:07:21 PM , Rating: 2
And that's also why, annoyingly, you have to pay by silly obscure methods if you use the service.

RE: Allofmp3
By darkpaw on 5/17/2007 4:19:59 PM , Rating: 2
By any definition they are pirates, they are selling someone elses property under their terms. In many countries there are no laws against computer hacking, but would you have a problem if they decided to break into your computer and use it for whatever they wanted?

I can't stand the RIAA, but Allofmp3 is nothing more then commercial pirates that sell something that doesn't belong to them.

RE: Allofmp3
By Hoser McMoose on 5/17/2007 5:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
They aren't pirates, they pay royalties to the Russian collection agency just like anyone else, so they are perfectly legit.

No they do not pay royalties to the Russian collection agency (or at least not the right one) and NO they are most definitely NOT legit in any way.

They USED to be getting by as a sort of on-demand digital radio station. They paid royalties to the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems as a radio station. They were NEVER selling you a copy of the music, all they ever sold was the bandwidth for you to listen to the song once as on a radio station.

They were allowed to get away with this because of a loophole in Russian copyright law. However the new law, signed in 2004 or '05, closed this loophole. That law came into effect some time ago in 2006, and ever since then they have been 100% fully and completely illegal. It's not just a matter of how long the Russian authorities take before they decide to enforce the law.

Either way, at the best of times NEVER sold licenses to the music, so transferring it to an iPod, burning to a CD, etc. was of very questionable legality at the best of times. You didn't *OWN* copies of the songs, you only had the same sort of fair-use provisions to listen to them that you would have of a radio or television program.

By TheDrD on 5/17/2007 7:16:57 AM , Rating: 1
Screw Apple, hello Amazon!

By oTAL on 5/17/2007 8:53:18 AM , Rating: 3
Actually iTunes also began selling "DRM free" music recently and even gives you the ability to update your previously bought music to remove the DRM restrictions and improve quality. No excuses to bash those guys...

By UNCjigga on 5/17/2007 10:12:46 AM , Rating: 5
Perhaps he's bashing them because Apple still uses the AAC codec exclusively, whereas will allow downloads in the more ubiquitous MP3 format. That makes Amazon's service a lot more appealing to owners of non-iPod digital music players.

Important Stuff
By BMFPitt on 5/17/2007 10:29:28 AM , Rating: 2
Anybody have any details on bitrate and price? I would assume this has to be at least equal to the 256k for $1.29 deal. (I know AAC is better in theory, but MP3 is compatible with everything.)

I'd be much happier giving my money to Amazon than to Apple.

RE: Important Stuff
By JonB on 5/17/2007 12:05:29 PM , Rating: 2
In theory, WMA encoding is better than MP3 but that doesn't matter much to the people listening with $49 MP3 players and $4.99 earbuds. Its all about the target audience.

RE: Important Stuff
By sdsdv10 on 5/17/2007 2:14:44 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be much happier giving my money to Amazon than to Apple.

IIRC, Apple doesn't really make any money off selling the music. The bulk of the money goes to the record labels. Apple makes their money when someone buys an iPod, not a song.

RE: Important Stuff
By TomZ on 5/17/2007 3:26:12 PM , Rating: 1
I would say that the odds of Apple having zero profit on the sale of a song/album is around, well, zero. I'm sure they keep some percentage.

I haven't downloaded before
By rdeegvainl on 5/17/2007 7:25:43 AM , Rating: 3
I used to always just buy the cd's and rip them myself. but then i found amazon's drm free downloads. it completely changed my life. /end sarcasm.
But i will definately buy a couple songs i want to show my support for drm free formats

RE: I haven't downloaded before
By Lonyo on 5/17/2007 11:56:01 AM , Rating: 3
I found Amazon's marketplace and bought used CD's from £1.25, instead of individual songs for £0.79. :)
<3 Amazon.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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