Amazon to sell DRM-free music from EMI

Apple iTunes“Amazon.com said on Wednesday the company will launch a digital music store later in 2007 with millions of songs, free of copy protection technology that limits where consumers can play their music,” Reuters reports.

MacDailyNews Note: Amazon says in their press release that they’ll use the old MP3 format. Apple’s iTunes store uses the AAC format which provides audio encoding that compresses much more efficiently than older formats like MP3. AAC offers many advantages over MP3 including improved compression provides higher-quality results with smaller file sizes, support for multichannel audio, providing up to 48 full frequency channels, higher resolution audio, yielding sampling rates up to 96 kHz, and improved decoding efficiency, requiring less processing power for decoding.

Reuters continues, “The Seattle-based company said music company EMI, home to artists ranging from Coldplay to Norah Jones to Joss Stone to Pink Floyd, has licensed its digital catalog to Amazon, the second such deal in a month.”

“Early last month, EMI said it would make its music available online without a key anti-piracy measure, becoming the first major music group to take the risk in a bid to grow digital sales,” Reuters reports. “With all music companies struggling from a drop in the sale of physical albums, EMI, announced its first deal with Apple and the iTunes online music store in April.”

Reuters reports, “Warner Music Group has said it sees no logic to dropping DRM but is still testing music without it, while Vivendi’s Universal Music has said it, too, is still testing tracks without DRM.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “bizarro ballmer” for the heads up.]
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos should thank Steve Jobs profusely. And Warner will eventually capitulate.

26 Comments

  1. Why MP3? Amazon could give iTunes a run for its money here, but is blowing it by not offering the superior AAC compression.

    I’m sure their marketing types were all over MP3, but for the ~15-20% potential additional customer whose players do not support AAC, they’ll LOSE a lot of the ~80% of people whose players do. I, for instance, will not buy an MP3 from Amazon when I can get an AAC from iTunes. The latter will be smaller at the same compression rate and sound better.

    Amazon should have sold AACs, and then differentiated themselves in a couple of other ways:

    – Higher quality (Apple will be 256K, Amazon could go the full 320k).
    – Lower price (EMI will take the same amount no matter who licenses it, but Amazon could shave a nickel of profit and try a lower price for a while).

    Instead, from my point of view, they will sell an inferior product. Even if it was a nickel less, no thanks.

    This is a shame, because selling the same (or better) product as Apple, Amazon could capitalize on their other site traffic, especially that for CD sales. It would be a natural.

    I really think Amazon’s decision to use MP3 is short-sighted and will cost them in the end. I think lots of iPod (and other compatible AAC players) users would rather go for the better quality and lower size of AAC tracks.

  2. @ OutbackMountain & SOD APU

    What is the use of having content when you do not have a content carrier?

    80% of the WORLD logs to itunes!
    One Billion ipod owners = a heck of buying power!

    Does Amazon have One billion ipod owners logging to it’s website looking for DRM free music?

    Was Amazon at the front line of insisting that DRM free music is what ipod & MP3 owners want?

    And what of M$ and its ZUNE? are they screaming out for DRM free music?

    Do not display your ignorance on this site! Those so called record companies nearly went bust not knowing how to deal with Napster until Apple came along and held their hand and led them to the promised land of the green buck. Now after billions of dollars in their accounts, they think they know better, this is even after the much heralded Zune has been seen off before it could start!

    EMI is playing the numbers game with Amazon to force the other record companies to realise that the dam has burst and there is no containing the flood.

    DRM is doomed as is any company that thinks that an installed base of One BILLION proven music buyers who own an ipod will buy ‘DRM free’ music from any other site than itunes.

    Some people! Sheeeesh!!

  3. Okay, we need to go over this, yet again…

    AAC files are not smaller than MP3 at the same compression rate. At the same compression rate, they are the same size!

    However, AAC sounds better than MP3 at the same compression rate, which gives users to have a smaller compression rate, resulting in a smaller file, with about the same quality sound.

    128kb is 128 kb, just like when an iPod competitor says that their 40GB player has a higher capacity than a 40GB iPod because they’re using an example with a lower bitrate.

  4. @Crabapple

    iTunes is a juggernaut which is unlikely to be derailed just because one or more of the record labels sells their own music directly. Who wants to go to several different locations to find music? Who even knows which label has which song?

    And who says that they will? I imagine Wal-Mart and others might object strenuously if the labels “went direct”.

  5. Crabapple, while I admire your passion, and I’d love to see 1 billion iPods sold, the actual number is 100M, you’re off by a factor of 10, buddy.

    I agree with you on the principle that iTS + iPod is more than just a file format but rather a level of integration and seamless ease of use that no one else has been able to copy, thus no one else has been able to be successful on a similar level.

    Also it does not help that other online stores are trying to peddle MS “PlaysForSure” format which is a dud.

  6. TheConfuzed1,

    Yes, AAC is smaller than MP3 at the same bit rate. 128K refers to the sample rate used. This rate has no bearing on file size when comparing different compression techniques. A 128K WMA file will be a different size than MP3 and AAC.

    The idea that different compression techniques will produce the exact same file sizes at the same sample rates is incorrect.

    If you have iTunes, you can easily prove this to yourself.

  7. @ twilightmoon Thank You! I stand corrected!! In my haste to put a stop to the dissemination of misinformation I overrun the numbers by an impressive factor of ten.

    Still the point is clear.

    Meanwhile @MPC Guy. Apple is Apple’s biggest retailer. While once upon a time Apple may have needed Amazon, Amazon needed Apple when they realised that the tide had turned against their beloved MP3 players and biege boxes.

    I recon Amazon are Apple’s biggest reseller of reconditioned Macs. Am I right? No doubt someone will tell me.

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