Amazon has finally launched its MP3 download store in the UK. This is good news, as it means there is another major player in the DRM-free music download market.
There are three key things that consumers deserve when buying music online:
- DRM-free – DRM destroys the value for the purchaser and encourages illegal downloads.
- High quality – Amazon’s downloads are VBR files encoded at around 256kbps. I would prefer a FLAC (or at least 320kbps AAC) option, but most peoples’ devices can’t play FLAC, so I can’t see this happening on a mainstream site soon.
- Price – you should pay substantially less for digital downloads than for CDs. There are no manufacturing costs, and distribution costs are much less than for CDs. Some of this cost-saving should be passed on to consumers, as a compromise for receiving a lower-quality and intangible product.
So how does Amazon’s MP3 store stack up? The top-selling album today is the recent album by Kings of Leon – “Only By The Night”.
Amazon is selling the CD for £8.98, and the MP3 album is £3.00. I think an album for less than the cost of a pint at your local is reasonable, and not a bad way to try out music from bands you’re interested in but not a huge fan of (yet).
“Vicious Delicious” by Infected Mushroom is a less tasty £6.99 though, which doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me. Perhaps Amazon is using popular albums as loss-leaders, who knows? In any case, £7 for an MP3 version of an album seems too steep for the discerning consumer.
I’ll try to download some music when I get a chance, and see how it goes. In the meantime, I’m just pleased that another big player is having a crack at Apple’s dominance (I quite like Apple, but competition is good for us little people).