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Amazon MP3 Vs. iTunes Music Store 310

Posted by kdawson
from the head-to-head dept.
Ali writes "As discussed here recently, amazon.com has launched a public beta of Amazon MP3, a digital music store that provides DRM-free downloads of over 2 million songs from 180,000 artists and 20,000 labels. In comparison, Apple says the iTunes Store now contains over 6 million songs. Here is a head-to-head comparison."
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Amazon MP3 Vs. iTunes Music Store

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  • Bad info in article. (Score:4, Informative)

    by SocialEngineer (673690) <invertedpanda@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:00AM (#20798621) Homepage

    iPod compatibility. Thanks to the lack of DRM, and in particular, Windows-specific DRM, songs purchased from Amazon MP3 will play on an iPod, something that has never been true for a mainstream online music retailer (other than Apple) before.
    Wow. I wonder if this place has ever heard of eMusic [emusic.com].
  • Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:00AM (#20798625)
    For those too lazy to RTFA, here's the verdict:

    Not Too Shabby -- Amazon MP3 is the first online music store that hasn't left me cold. Its advantages are very real:

            * No DRM. No consumer likes DRM, and although Apple hasn't yet released any statistics on how the DRM-free tracks from EMI have sold in comparison with the DRM-encumbered versions of the same tracks, Amazon has done the right thing by eliminating it across the board. Hopefully Amazon's move will give Apple some leverage with the music labels to make more DRM-free tracks available.

            * iPod compatibility. Thanks to the lack of DRM, and in particular, Windows-specific DRM, songs purchased from Amazon MP3 will play on an iPod, something that has never been true for a mainstream online music retailer (other than Apple) before.

            * Low prices. I don't have a sense for how price-conscious the online music market really is, but with many tracks priced below even the cost of Apple's DRM-encumbered tracks, and albums priced even lower, I could see budget-driven consumers or those who buy a lot of music preferring to purchase from Amazon MP3 over the iTunes Store.

            * 1-Click shopping. People do not like creating new accounts for shopping, but there's no question that some people shop from Amazon over other venues purely because it's such a known quantity after years of easy ordering. Ordering via Amazon MP3 isn't as easy as from the iTunes Store, but it's not far off.
  • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:08AM (#20798681)
    eMusic is certainly not a mainstream music retailer. They don't sell you MP3s the way the grocer sells you a melon. You have to sign up for a month and you're allowed to download a song a day, roughly, although nobody does that. I can go to Amazon and spend 89c on a single song and never return. At eMusic, I have to pay $9.99 at least and then I have to remember to cancel it if I don't want it any more.
  • Finally (Score:1, Informative)

    by notoriousE (723905) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:19AM (#20798747) Homepage
    I used to say "If I could purchase a track for a buck i'd buy more music, because then I wouldn't have to buy 10 or so other crappy songs with it on an album" Then the itunes store came around -- then i realized i couldn't easily transfer songs to my non-apple mp3 player

    i think now i WILL actually buy some music in digital form --- kudos to amazon
  • by arth1 (260657) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:41AM (#20798865) Homepage Journal
    Actually, eMusic does have a $6 per month plan, covering 0-10 songs per month (i.e. averaging at $1.20 per song, or $.60 if and only if you make sure you always download exactly 10 songs in any given billing period.
    Of course, even getting to see their plans without signing up is deliberately made difficult, but if you follow the links around from their legalese pages, you find a well buried link to the plans [emusic.com].

    I have had no luck in finding out what quality the tracks are ripped with, or what software was used to rip them. Nor any other technical details.
  • by fangorious (1024903) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @12:45AM (#20798883)
    When will people get a fucking clue that the MP4 files that iTunes sells are not an Apple proprietary format? It's the codec developed to replace MP3. It was developed by the same freaking people who developed MP3. You know you can buy songs without DRM from iTunes? Thirty cent price jump for 256 kpbs MP4 (theoretically superior quality to 256 kbps MP3) with no DRM for individual tracks. No price jump if you buy the whole album. And reportedly Amazon's terms of service don't allow re-downloading of transfer of ownership.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:07AM (#20798979)
    iTunes plus uses a standard (DRM free AAC) that is just as well documented and supported as MP3. For goodness sake, the Zune can play iTunes Plus music! And so can snything else that supports AAC, which is most new players. I don't think there's a Linux player around that could not handle them.
  • by Zonk (troll) (1026140) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:15AM (#20799019)
    Go here: http://www.emusic.com/browse/all.html [emusic.com].

    You can also click on the "Login" button on eMusic.com and then a search box and all the links are there.

    Or install the Firefox search [mozdev.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:20AM (#20799031)
    You are just spreading FUD, right? You can authorize up to 5 computers to your iTunes account. You can simply authorize your new computer if you need to fix/reformat/sell your computer. If you use up your authorization quota or doesn't want to waste one, you can de-authorize your old computer and re-authorize your new one. If for some reason you can't get iTunes to work, you can call up Apple Customer Service and request de-authorization.

    BTW, tell your brother-in-law that he can burn his music to Audio CDs so he can use it with his new device. If he doesn't want re-compressed music, he can download softwares to remove FairPlay. Search engines are your friend.
  • Text of article (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:22AM (#20799043)
    I got a login/password pop-up when I tried to read the head-to-head comparison. Here's the text from a mirror in the event anyone else sees the same.

    ***
    Entertainment | 25 Sep 2007 | Recommend?
    Amazon MP3 Takes on the iTunes Store

    by Adam C. Engst

    Amazon.com has launched a public beta of Amazon MP3, a digital music store that provides DRM-free downloads of over 2 million songs from 180,000 artists and 20,000 labels. In comparison, Apple says the iTunes Store now contains over 6 million songs.

    According to Amazon's press release, most of Amazon MP3's songs are priced between $0.89 and $0.99, with more than 1 million songs in the current catalog available at $0.89, a full $0.40 less than Apple's iTunes Plus songs. Most albums in Amazon MP3 are priced between $5.99 and $9.99, again a bit cheaper than albums in the iTunes Store, which generally check in at $9.99.

    All songs in Amazon MP3 are encoded at 256 Kbps, which is comparable to iTunes Plus songs, although in theory, the iTunes Plus AAC format could provide better quality than the MP3 format used by Amazon. Because Amazon is using MP3 and avoiding DRM entirely, songs purchased from Amazon MP3 are playable on any device, including the iPhone and iPods, along with Macs, PCs, and music players from other manufacturers.

    Individual tracks can be purchased directly from a Web page, but to buy an album, you must first download and install the Amazon MP3 Downloader, available for both Mac OS X and Windows (a 615K download for the Mac version).

    In my testing, the Amazon MP3 Downloader worked acceptably, but it was a distinctly clumsier experience than purchasing from iTunes. Clicking a Buy button on the Amazon Web site downloaded a document to my Desktop. I believe the Amazon MP3 Downloader was supposed to open it and download the actual song, but I had to double-click the file manually, likely because Amazon wasn't expecting that I'd be using a browser other than Safari (I generally rely on OmniWeb). Once opened in Amazon MP3 Downloader, the song was downloaded to an Amazon MP3 folder in the Music folder and then sent over to iTunes, which, at least on my machine, means that it was duplicated, since I keep my iTunes Music folder on a server for shared usage.

    Songs I purchased were encoded at between 208 Kbps and 256 Kbps using variable bit-rate (VBR) encoding, and the free sample song was encoded at 280 Kbps VBR. Sound quality was certainly fine to my ears, though I'm no audio connoisseur. The metadata was complete and album artwork was either included or picked up automatically by iTunes.

    Not Too Shabby -- Amazon MP3 is the first online music store that hasn't left me cold. Its advantages are very real:

    * No DRM. No consumer likes DRM, and although Apple hasn't yet released any statistics on how the DRM-free tracks from EMI have sold in comparison with the DRM-encumbered versions of the same tracks, Amazon has done the right thing by eliminating it across the board. Hopefully Amazon's move will give Apple some leverage with the music labels to make more DRM-free tracks available.
    * iPod compatibility. Thanks to the lack of DRM, and in particular, Windows-specific DRM, songs purchased from Amazon MP3 will play on an iPod, something that has never been true for a mainstream online music retailer (other than Apple) before.
    * Low prices. I don't have a sense for how price-conscious the online music market really is, but with many tracks priced below even the cost of Apple's DRM-encumbered tracks, and albums priced even lower, I could see budget-driven consumers or those who buy a lot of music preferring to purchase from Amazon MP3 over the iTunes Store.
    * 1-Click shopping. People do not like creating new accounts for shopping, but there's no question that some people shop from Amazon over other venues purely because it's such a known quantity after years of easy ordering. Ordering
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:33AM (#20799095)

    But despite my recommendations, my dad who's a DJ went with iTunes with the ridiculous DRM that went so far that they actually have their own filetype.
    iTunes uses AAC, which is an MPEG standard. Just like MP3.

    I told him it was insane but he just downloads songs, burns them to a CD, then rips them on the player computer and they're completely un-DRMed as far as I can tell. And that barely loses quality since MP3 to CD quality to top quality MP3 isn't too bad. So yeah it's pretty fast and pretty nice. But no DRM in the first place is good too.
    You need to tell him about QTFairUse6 (google it). It will remove the DRM without any loss in quality. Takes less than than burning and ripping too.
  • by Zonk (troll) (1026140) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:40AM (#20799129)
    However, they lock out Linux users. While I can apparently buy indivual songs, I can't buy an album without using their downloader which is Windows/OS X only. I don't feel like booting into OS X just to download some mp3s.

    For now I'll stick to eMusic and DownloadPunk (albums are downloaded as a zip).
  • Amazon Problems (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:40AM (#20799143)
    - Proprietary downloader required for albums (Why, oh why? I refuse to install crap like this that serves no necessary purpose.)
    - Downloading of singles without the proprietary downloader can take ages (20 minutes for a 5MB song) or fail completely
    - No sorting options on many screens, just like the rest of Amazon. At least clicking on an artist gets you that artist's music, unlike clicking on an author when looking at books, which only gets you a text search of the author's name (still amazed at the lameness of that)
    - No shopping cart. WTF? Each song must be purchased individually. It's amazing how crappy these music stores start out. The bar is so insanely low.
    - No media library for re-downloading. Come on people, join the new millennium. Why not make it possible forever, and only limit the number of redownloads in a given time period if you are worried about bandwidth? Where did customer service go? Not to mention this would bring consumer eyes back again and again... why run away from this opportunity?
    - Lousy track naming. Decent meta information but the files are named {track #} - {track name}.mp3. Track number is meaningless without the context of the album. Why not name them {artist} - {track name}.mp3 so the are comprehensible in a directory listing?

    Tip: If you record the download URL, you'll find that you can actually use it multiple times. Great for when something goes wrong with the first attempt. For some reason, Amazon can't figure out how to serve these files worth a damn. Fortunately they didn't bother to actually enforce the "one download" policy. Not sure how long it hangs around.
  • Re:Redundant? (Score:3, Informative)

    by BungaDunga (801391) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:35AM (#20799343)

    And, FLAC doesn't play in mp3 players like iPod etc.
    Does if you run Rockbox. Granted, that's a small minority of users.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @02:55AM (#20799437)
    You could click the name Oasis [amazon.com] under 'Artists' at the top of the results. Unfortunately, they currently only have two songs by Oasis, which explains why their albums are difficult to find and why this message appears at the top:

    Amazon MP3 does not yet offer the complete Oasis catalog. Not all record labels have approved all of their music for sale as MP3s, but we're working to expand selection. Shop the complete collection of Oasis in our CD store.
    A search for Blur [amazon.com] or Radiohead [amazon.com] will return better results.

    FYI The top list contains the Artist results, the left column has the albums, and the main list (the gray list on the right titled "MP3 Songs") has the songs. In addition, if you search through Amazon's regular store and click on a CD, it gives you an option to buy it in mp3 format there (assuming they have it).
  • Fails on search (Score:2, Informative)

    by gerardrj (207690) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:49AM (#20799635) Journal
    I tried to use Amazon's MP3 download store only to be stymied by the completely anemic search and sorting capabilities. Choose to search by "Song title" and type in a phrase. You get back all matches to song title, album title and artist. WTF? Worse, I could not find a way to sort the list by song title. Ex: Search for song title "Mary". The first 28 results don't have "Mary" in the song title!
    Sorry, but iTunes is just an infinitely easier to use store than the Amazon web site; and have you SEEN the Wireless iTunes Music store??
    iTMS is just so far ahead of Amazon in style and functionality that I don't see anyone on Windows or Mac abandoning iTMS in favor of Amazon.

    Amazon is also mis-leading consumers. They claim $.89 downloads, but it only applies to the "top 100" songs, most other tracks are $.99_ or more_.

    Sure the Amazon tracks are DRM free, but the Fairplay rights from iTunes Music store are something most consumers are never going to run up against... 5 computers, unlimited iPods, only 10 sequential playlist burns before you have to alter the playlist or start copying the burned disk directly. And there are certainly enough ways "around" Fairplay that anyone who would be affected; ie non windows/Mac OS users, could remove the DRM on a supported platform via emulation and migrate the music to another format/platform.

    I get the sneaky suspicion that there is some back-room politics going on here between the record companies and Amazon and that it is all to benefit the record companies.

  • by gverdouw (879991) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @07:23AM (#20800285)
    Um, how long ago did you guys use eMusic? I've been using it on and off for a couple of years now and all the music I have downloaded have been encoded in VBR mp3.

    So perhaps they have improved since whenever you used them/certain labels use better compression?

    Ahh, found a FAQ entry:

    Q: What is a bitrate? At what bitrate are eMusic's MP3s encoded at?

    A: Bitrate is the number of bits per second used in the encoding process. A higher bitrate (a.k.a encoding rate) usually means a larger size file and higher quality sound. eMusic currently encodes its MP3s using VBR (Variable Bit Rate). VBR is a type of audio compression that different sections of a track at different bit rates. Intricate portions are encoded at higher rates while simpler portions are encoded at lower rates. This is different than standard bit rate encoding, which encodes all sounds at a fixed rate. The average bit rate used for VBR on eMusic is 192k. We choose to encode using VBR to give you the best possible sound quality with the smallest possible file size.
  • Re:profit margin (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wdomburg (141264) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @07:41AM (#20800321)
    The problem with that, and maybe with the whole amazon gig is the profit margin issue. My impression, perhaps I'm wrong, was that apple was pocketing less than a dime a song for itunes music store.

    Current estimates are about a dime, with "wholesale cost" (i.e. the label's cut) being about $0.70 for majors and $0.60-65 for independents.

    The rest of the cost is supposed to be comprosed of infrastructure, operational expenses, and transaction fees from the credit card companies. I'll eat my own shoes if Amazon's costs aren't lower. They're largely reusing a pre-existing retail infrastructure. And as a major retail operation, they doubtless have a ton of clout with the credit card companies (which are commonly cited as having the next biggest cut after the labels).

    Presumably this is not too server lite either since I'm guessing the songs are watermarked with your ID and then MP3 compressed.

    Nope. The songs are being provided encoded by the labels and the only watermarks identify the retailer, not the purchaser. Bandwidth would be the predominant cost here.
  • by jals (667347) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:07AM (#20801121)

    Music is 128kbps bitrate. They're basically delivering the absolute minimum quality that I, and many others, consider usable
    From the eMusic FAQ:

    The average bit rate used for VBR on eMusic is 192k. We choose to encode using VBR to give you the best possible sound quality with the smallest possible file size.

    I still think that's a little unnecessarily low, but just wanted to point out they don't use the absolute minimum.

  • by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@jaso[ ]fkowitz.net ['nle' in gap]> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:12AM (#20801547) Homepage

    Oh come on now.

    1. They are working on a Linux version of the downloader [amazon.com] as we speak.
    2. In the meantime, reports are that the Windows version of the downloader runs fine under Wine. And the only thing you need the downloader for is for full albums, Linux users can buy singles today straight from their browser, no downloader required.

    With this offering, Amazon has done more to make Linux a first-class citizen in the online music space than maybe any other company to date. That's hardly "lock[ing] out Linux users."

  • by drifterusa (987504) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:41PM (#20805135)
    1. Having never wanted to do this before, I thought I'd try the first thing that came to my mind, and it worked. To get a song's URL in iTunes (on a Mac, anyway), right-click (or control-click or do that equivalent thing on trackpads) the song in iTunes and select "Copy iTunes Store URL." Seems to work for everything in iTunes (TV shows, movies, etc.).

    2. To get a more useful search in iTunes, go to the Store menu and select "Search..."

    3. Can't find this track on iTunes, I suspect because they don't have it. Whether that indicates that Amazon's selection of two million tracks has more obscure stuff than iTunes's selection of six million tracks -- and whether that is good or bad -- I can't say.

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