They’ve been available in the US for some time but they’ve now come to the UK and about time!
I have been buying fewer albums, more individual tracks and so I’m buying more electronically (I tend to buy albums on CD). I usually use iTunes and have been very satisfied, I have an iPod and integration is good, I quite like iTunes as a music player/organiser too. The only issue is when I want to play tracks on other devices (my car stereo plays MP3s from a USB stick, for example). So wherever possibly I select the option for the DRM free ‘Plus’ tracks, but not many have the option.
This service isn’t new in the UK, Play.com offer tracks too, but I’ve found the range is small and they don’t seem to be having much of an impact.
I’ve just bought a couple of tracks on Amazon (which were both available on iTunes and Play.com), they were cheaper on Amazon (one was 59p, the other was 69p, compared to 70p each on Play.com and 79p each on iTunes, no ‘plus’ version was available of either on iTunes – side note, one of the albums was £1 cheaper than both Play and iTunes). The Amazon download software worked fine (I run 64-bit Vista don’t forget, some things don’t) and even automatically added the tracks to my iTunes library.
Amazon’s MP3s are 256k, both of the tracks were 320k on Play, though bitrates vary depending on the track from what I’ve seen) and they were only in AAC on iTunes. If quality is a worry it might be something to think about, most of mine are ripped at about 192k from CD as I can’t tell the different above that and it seems to be the sweet spot for quality vs size.
So, my initial experience has been very good. Doing a comparison and some searches from my recent purchase history showed Play and Amazon were very similar in results, Amazon may slightly edge it, but neither of them has the range of iTunes yet, that’s a factor in where I purchase, but so is the format and saving me from converting AAC tracks to MP3 so I can play legally purchased music where I want is a big plus.
Hopefully it’ll give iTunes a run for it’s money and force them to offer more tracks DRM free, maybe it’ll get them to look at prices too. I may shop around for where I buy tracks in future. Now, if someone can come up with a site that allows me to search tracks on all three and show me the prices it’d be useful.