Amazon Now Hawks MP3s, Targeting iPod Crowd

There’s a new way to fill up your iPod — but the latest music store to open on the Web isn’t from Apple. It’s from Amazon.

Open to public beta today, the online retailer’s new Amazon MP3 music store features what the company characteristically calls “Earth’s biggest selection” — over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists, represented by over 20,000 major and independent labels.

Making good on plans announced in May, every song and album on Amazon MP3 is available exclusively in the MP3 format and lacks digital rights management protections (DRM), a company spokesman told

The absence of DRM means each song will be playable on any hardware device, from Microsoft Zunes to Apple iPhones, as well as through any music management application.

Each song is encoded at 256kb per second and most will cost between 89 cents to 99 cents, Amazon said. Typically, the top 100 best-selling songs will sell for 89 cents each, and mostly albums will
go for between $5.99 to $9.99, with the top 100 best-selling albums marked at $8.99 or less.

The pricing scheme undercuts Apple’s standard fee of $.99 per song. Apple also offers DRM-free music, but for a premium price of $1.29 per song.

Still, with the launch of Amazon MP3, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is getting some of what he asked for earlier this year when he called for music retailers and publishers to offer DRM-free music.

“In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players,” Jobs wrote in an essay last February. “This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”

iTunes isn’t Amazon’s only competition, of course. In early August, Best Buy announced its DRM-free music from Universal Music Group. Ten days later, Viacom’s MTV Networks joined with RealNetworks to form a new company, Rhapsody America, which will be the exclusive digital music service for Real and for MTV Networks’ premier music and pop culture brands in the United States.

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