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Amazon MP3 is a digital music store owned and operated by Amazon.com. Launched in public beta on September 25, 2007, in January 2008 it became the first music store to sell music without digital rights management (DRM) from the four major music labels (EMI, Universal, Warner Music, and Sony BMG), as well as many independents. All tracks are sold in 256 kilobits-per-second variable bitrate MP3 format without per-customer watermarking or DRM. Licensing agreements with recording companies restrict the countries in which music can be sold: Amazon.com only sells music to US customers while Amazon.co.uk only sells music to UK customers.

After the United Statesmarker, Amazon MP3 was launched in the United Kingdommarker on December 3, 2008, in Germanymarker on April 1, 2009, and in Francemarker on June 10, 2009 .

Catalog availability

At launch, Amazon offered "over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists and over 20,000 labels, including EMI Music and Universal Music Group", to customers located in the United States only. In December 2007 Warner Music announced that it would offer its catalog on Amazon MP3 and in January 2008, Sony BMG followed suit. The current catalog is 9.6 million songs.

In January 2008, Amazon announced plans to roll Amazon MP3 out "internationally". Amazon limits international access by checking users' credit card issued country. The first international version was launched December 3, 2008 in the United Kingdommarker. A German and then a French version of the store followed.

Supported platforms

Amazon MP3's catalog is accessible from the Amazon.com web site by searching for an artist or title name. To download purchased music, Amazon.com offers the Amazon MP3 Downloader which is optional for individual tracks and required for album purchases. The Downloader is available for Windows (XP or Vista), Mac OS X 10.4 or higher, and Linux (packages are provided for Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and openSUSE). It saves purchased music into a particular folder and can, at the user's discretion, add purchased tracks to the library in Windows Media Player (Windows only) or iTunes (Windows and Mac OS X only) automatically after download.An Amazon MP3 application for the Android mobile device platform is preloaded on T-Mobile G1 and Droid smartphones. The application allows mobile phone users to download individual tracks and albums when on a Wi-Fi network. Palm phones based on webOS have an Amazon MP3 application as well.. The media management application doubleTwist for Mac OS X also has an integrated Amazon MP3 store which enables users to search, buy and sync MP3s directly to non-Apple devices.

Partnerships

On February 1, 2008, Pepsi introduced a Pepsi Stuff promotion in partnership with Amazon MP3. Customers can exchange points offered on 4 billion Pepsi bottles for, among other prizes, MP3 downloads from Warner, EMI, and Sony BMG (though not Universal).

Rockstar Games' 2008 title Grand Theft Auto IV connects to Amazon MP3. Players can dial a special number on the main character's mobile phone while listening to a song on the radio. In the game, the character will receive a text message on his phone indicating the title and artist. Players can also register on the Rockstar Games Social Club web site to receive e-mail outside the game containing a link to buy marked songs from Amazon MP3.

MySpace has sold music from Amazon MP3 as part of its MySpace Music feature since September 2008.

Reaction

Initial reaction to Amazon MP3 was generally positive. The unofficial Apple Weblog praised the lack of DRM especially given that track prices were cheaper than iTunes Plus songs at launch, but the reviewer considered the user experience better in iTunes than on the Amazon web site. Om Malik of GigaOM also praised the lack of DRM and the high bitrate but disliked the need to install another application to download albums. Overall, the reviewer said "…I think it makes sense for everyone to browse the Amazon store before hitting the 'buy' button on iTunes."

A study by Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired News's Listening Post blog investigated whether Amazon MP3 was watermarking tracks with personally identifiable information. Van Buskirk quoted an Amazon spokesperson as saying, "Amazon does not apply watermarks. Files are generally provided to us from the labels and some labels use watermarks to identify the retailer who sold the tracks (there is no information on the tracks that identifies the customer)." The study concluded that although tracks may be watermarked to indicate that they were purchased on Amazon MP3, there is no data to indicate which specific customer purchased a given MP3 file.

References

  1. Amazon.com Launches Public Beta of Amazon MP3
  2. Amazon.com: Help > Digital Products Help > Amazon MP3 Music Downloads > Amazon MP3 Music Terms of Use
  3. An empty search query on the Amazon MP3 website shows a catalog of 9.6 million songs
  4. Amazon to Begin International Rollout of Amazon MP3 in 2008
  5. Palm Pre: Where's the music?
  6. The media management application doubleTwist for Mac OS X has an integrated Amazon MP3 Store
  7. Amazon, Pepsi Team For Super Bowl MP3 Giveaway
  8. Amazon, Pepsi Prep Massive MP3 Promotion
  9. Amazon MP3: a quick review
  10. Amazon MP3 vs. Apple iTunes: Where Should You Shop?
  11. Some of Amazon's MP3 Tracks Contain Watermarks


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