Thursday, January 10, 2013

Amazon's new AutoRip plan shouldn't run into trouble from the labels due to its limitations

The online retailer Amazon.com today unveiled a new MP3 program for buyers of CDs on its website. Called AutoRip the program gives buyers an MP3 version of their just-purchased CD that is available immediately.

The program is a logical move in a market where many buyers are choosing to buy MP3 downloads rather than physical CDs, causing CD sales to decline. The idea that would be attractive to the record labels is that the CD generally costs more so the purchase ends up being an upsell.

The key to the whole venture, though, is that not all CDs are eligible, only those music titles where Amazon.com already offers a choice between buying physical media and an MP3 download.

According to the Amazon site that is about 37,500 titles.

Because the record label has already approved Amazon.com selling an MP3 version of the CD, there should be no opposition from labels (and likely the move was discussed in advance with the major labels).

Will this lead to more CD sales? Probably a bit. Most people already know how to rip their own music, but the offer does offer some convenience.

The real winner here, though, would be Amazon's cloud player system. Amazon Cloud Player competes head-on with Apple's iCloud – but Apple, of course, does not sell physical CDs. So now buyers of music at Amazon.com, whether buying MP3s or CDs, would now have access to their music through Cloud Player.

Amazon's Cloud Player is free for anyone buying music through the online retailer, but the storage is only 250 songs imported directly from the user own library. The price for Cloud Player Premium is $24.99 per year.

But if you buy all your music through Amazon, which surely the retailer would prefer, all those songs would be stored in your Cloud Player account regardless whether you have upgraded to Premium or not.

The one advantage Apple's iTunes still has is that in some limited cases, an MP3 purchase from iTunes comes with a digital booklet included, one where the buyer can print out their own jewel case material. Amazon one ups this by offering a physical CD with its original booklet – though at CD prices, of course.

Update: Around the time this story was posted I received an email from Amazon about past purchases and the AutoRip program – no doubt thousands of other customers of the retail received a similar email. Upon clicking the email about 500 additional songs I had purchased in the past few years were automatically added to Amazon Cloud Player, in addition to the 250 or so songs I already had there from more recent purchases. I would guess that this move will encourage more users of Amazon's online music player, as well as new downloads of the Amazon Cloud Player for iPhone.

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