A Review of The Amazon Music Download Store

A look at Amazon's online music store and cloud locker service

Amazon Music Store
View of the Amazon Music Download Store. Image © Mark Harris - Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Introduction

Amazon.com, Inc. is a well respected force in the online retail market, and so it was no surprise that it eventually entered the digital music download scene in 2007. Its digital music store, Amazon Music (previously named Amazon MP3), is now a well-established service that initially made waves in the digital music download market when it was first launched -- it was one of the first services at the time to offer DRM-free content.

Find out in this review of Amazon Music if it's a real alternative to Apple's mega-successful iTunes Store.

Pros:

  • Songs come in the ultra-compatible MP3 format.
  • Over 30 million tracks.
  • Songs and albums can be cheaper than the iTunes Store (but not always).
  • Personal Amazon cloud music locker that you can also upload songs to (250 songs maximum).

Cons:

  • Not available in as many countries as some other competing services (e.g. iTunes Store).
  • Amazon Music's downloader software must be used for album downloads.

Technical Details

  • Audio Format: MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3).
  • Bitrate: 256 kbps.
  • Compression: VBR.
  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android (including Amazon's Fire OS).

Using The Amazon Music Store

Type of Music Service / Cost
Amazon Music operates as an a la carte system enabling you to simply select the tracks you want to buy and downloading them -- just like the iTunes Store. If you are already an Amazon customer then you don’t need to create a separate account for music.

You just need your normal Amazon account to be able to purchase digital music.

The typical prices you can expect to pay on Amazon Music vary, but usually fall into these price ranges:

  • $0.99 for single tracks (some are lower than this).
  • $3.99 to $6.99+ for the latest albums.

Music Catalog
The choice of music that Amazon Music offers is very good over all, but even with a catalog of over 30 millions songs it's still not quite as good as the iTunes Store.

At the time of writing, there are 24 genres of music on offer that are logically listed down the left-hand side of the website. Amazon have also made it easy to use the search facility for finding a specific song, album, or artist if you know what you're looking for.

The main page of the Amazon Music store features the latest happenings in the music world with sections dedicated to new albums and songs, pre-order future releases, best-selling albums, and more. This makes music discovery even easier.

Previewing Songs and Albums Before Buying
Before you purchase a song or album, the Amazon Music store lets you play a 30-second music clip via an embedded music player. If previewing a song you just get a play / pause button next to it. However, if you want to listen to a whole album the there are controls for skipping tracks (both forwards and backwards). This takes the hassle out listening to multiple songs or even a complete album.

Purchasing Music
The interface for purchasing music on Amazon Music is very similar to the other stores under Amazon.com. Although the design and layout can lead to confusion at times, the familiar orange 'buy' button with the price displayed is conveniently situated alongside each track or album.

This makes a purchase very straightforward. Amazon also use the '1-click' buy option for digital music that enables you to automatically use your stored credit card details to instantly buy in one step.

When you buy music from Amazon Music it gets safely stored in your own personal music locker. This clod space is simply called Your Music Library (previously called Amazon Cloud Player) and can be accessed via the account drop-down menu at the top of the screen. Once a purchase has been made you'll be able to stream, download, or even create playlists.

Amazon Music App (formerly MP3 Downloader)

This is a small download manager that makes downloading multiple files easier to do.

Once installed, the downloader software will run automatically every time you make a purchase from the Amazon Music store. The downside to Amazon’s software is if you want to purchase an album and download it at checkout, then you will have to install it. The only other alternative is to download the individual tracks that make up the album from your Amazon cloud music library. This may put you off from using the service if you don't want to install any software like iTunes.

The Amazon Music app is available for the following platforms:

  • Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP
  • Mac OS X 10.4 or higher / Adobe AIR version 3.3.x
  • iOS 7+ (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
  • Android 4+
  • Amazon Fire Phones / Tablets / TV
  • Sonos

Conclusion

Amazon has stepped up to the plate and delivered an excellent service that is user-friendly, and more importantly, provides downloads that are highly compatible due to the unprotected MP3 format. Prices are very keen too, with single tracks available for as little as 69 cents and some albums available for under $4.99, this makes the Amazon Music store excellent value for money.

The only thing that might hold you back from using their music service is if you are heavily into music discovery or want other types of media. The iTunes Store for example has more and varied music. It also has more audiobooks, podcasts, and apps too.

However, even with these shortcomings, Amazon Music is a solid service that gives the iTunes Store (and others) a serious run for their money.