Amazon Takes on Apple in Digital Music

Combined CDs and AutoRip Make Amazon Cloud Player More Enticing

January 24, 2013

Do you like surprises? Many Amazon customers were surprised to discover that Amazon had given them a free gift: digital MP3 files of the music from CDs they had purchased directly from Amazon anytime. You can download and/or stream this music using an Amazon Cloud Player app on your device of choice or directly from your browser. We believe that this capability will cause many people to switch their music purchasing from Apple to Amazon.


Amazon quietly introduced a new service called AutoRip. Any music CD you ever purchased from Amazon (for which Amazon has negotiated the rights to the MP3 tracks) is automatically put into your Amazon Cloud Player, so you can access that music from virtually any device that plays MP3s.

We think this is an awesome service and the kind of thing that only Amazon would a) think of doing and b) be able to do. But there are pros and cons.


Amazon’s Magic Touch

When I received my first email from Amazon’s AutoRip service, I was tickled. What? I don’t have to laboriously pop each of my music CDs into my computer to turn them into portable digital audio files? You’re going to rip them automagically for me? Sure enough, when I went to my Amazon Cloud Player library, I discovered that digital tracks of music from long ago purchased CDs had just miraculously appeared. (See Illustration 1.) This really did delight me! It’s like getting a present you never expected.

When I first heard about the AutoRip service, I thought it was very clever, but I assumed that I would have to DO something: Find my CDs, decide which ones I want to have in digital form, select them, and wait for them to be ripped (probably come back later). But the day after the AutoRip announcement, I went to my Amazon cloud and there they all were: The digital tracks from almost every CD I had bought from Amazon since 1994. (Notably missing, however, was my most recent purchase: A Christmas present to myself of a 4-CD set of Everly Brothers’ classics.)

What’s the Big Deal? Bought CDs in the Past? Get MP3s Now

Who else but Amazon would think of such a clever way to make me even more delighted with my past purchases? I had forgotten about much of this old music. It was moldering on stockpiled CDs somewhere. But now it’s fresh and new, and I have access to it for free, since I already purchased it once. This feels like it’s the way it ought to be, e.g., you pay for a physical good, like a physical book or a CD or DVD, and you can access that content from any device for no extra money. What’s particularly special about it is the fact that I didn’t have to sign up for anything or take any steps. The Amazon tooth fairy just showed up and filled my Amazon Cloud Player with music.

 his is the email I received from Amazon

© 2013 Patricia Seybold Group and Amazon

1. This is the email I received from Amazon.

How Does It Work?

Every Amazon customer has an Amazon Cloud Player account for music. You don’t have to activate it. But once you do (typically by buying a CD or uploading music to it), all of the “AutoRippable” music you have purchased from Amazon for yourself (not gifts) is automatically uploaded into your Amazon Cloud Player library. The first part is easy to understand. If I purchased a CD for someone else, they own it, not me. So I can’t both give it away and have it, too.

The second part is not so easy to understand (as evidenced by the active forum discussions on the Amazon Cloud site). Whether or not a CD, or all the tracks on that CD, are AutoRippable, e.g., may be converted into MP3 files by Amazon, depends on the licensing agreements made with the music publisher and the musicians. The result is that you may find that you have access to 3 out of 12 tracks on one album, or all of the tracks except the “premium” tracks on a special album.

Who Is Eligible? Right now, to have access to this service, you must have a billing address in the U.S. for your Amazon account and have a credit card from a U.S.-based bank associated with your Amazon account. (This is how Amazon and its lawyers apparently defined “purchased in the U.S.”) That does not mean that you must actually currently be in the U.S., however.


Many Loyal Amazon Customers Are Delighted

I suspect that many of the people who love Amazon’s AutoRip program are like me. We are longtime loyal customers of Amazon who are not music fanatics, but who enjoy the convenience of carrying around and listening to music on our various mobile devices. Many of us have been using iTunes for a while (on PCs as well as Macs, i-devices) and have ripped our favorite music the old-fashioned way: by sticking a CD into our computers while we’re doing other things and letting ‘er Rip. So, over the years, we’ve organized our digital playlists and music collections, mostly using iTunes. Some of us may have opted for Apple’s iTunes Match program in order to keep all our iTunes music in the Apple cloud. Others of us haven’t taken that step yet.

So, when Amazon automagically started populating our music libraries with oldies but goodies from our purchased CDs, we were surprised and delighted!

“Tim McGuire says:

This is absolutely one of the best things Amazon has ever done. It loaded CD's I bought all the way back to 2000. Thanks Amazon!”

“ThePlayer says:

I'm very satisfied. 118 complete albums now on my cloud player. My iPad, 4 kindles, and every computer in the house now has great tunes! Best of all it was free! Great job amazon! For those of you wondering why not every single song from every single album, it's because many songs are not available as an mp3 download, such as very long songs or songs the artist decided to not make available. Check the mp3 page of the album you are buying and if the song is not listed as available it will not transfer to the cloud.”

“Paul W. Lusher says:

Wow! Found a news article on this, jumped on Amazon Cloud Player & suddenly have over 2000 songs in the Player. As someone that buys pretty much all of my music on physical CDs and probably 95% of that from Amazon, this is a real plus. Thanks Amazon - great feature!”

The way that Amazon surprised us with AutoRip made us think twice about where we’ll purchase our music in the future. Will we continue buying music by the track at iTunes, or buy more digital music from Amazon? Will we start buying more CDs, knowing that, if we buy AutoRippable CDs, we can start listening to them immediately?

“Becky L. says:

I just regret all those iTunes downloads, because I needed it NOW, over the years. Sooo few old CDs in my locker. :-( Well, I'm rectifying that past mistake! Already bought 3 new CDs this morning. You rock, Amazon! “

Will we change our gift-giving practices? Buy a CD for a friend instead of a gift certificate, but buy it and send it to ourselves (so we can have it auto-ripped) and then give it to the friend the old-fashioned way, by handing it or sending it to them?


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