Archive for the 'Amazon MP3 Store' Category

Free music round-up 2009

Friday, January 1st, 2010

At the end of March of last year, I predicted that I would download more than 11,000 free songs in that year.

The final tallies are in.

I downloaded and added 11,466 free songs within 2009. At the stroke of midnight, I was still catching up on my backlog of Chromewaves; once I’d finished, I had a total of 11,554 free songs that had been published in 2009.

Either way, I met my prediction: I downloaded and added more than 11,000 songs, approximately doubling-and-a-half my library from its size at the start of 2009, for free. (I did buy some music as well, easing my conscience.)

I’ve refined my stable of sources over the past year. Here’s my current list of subscriptions:

Naturally, I also download all of the free songs on iTunes and free songs on Amazon every Tuesday.

For those of you who’d like to follow these sources in your feed reader:

File: Music sources.opml.bz2 Music-sources.opml.bz2

An OPML file of all of the RSS feeds of these sources (except iTunes, Amazon, and Spinner). In Vienna, choose “Import Subscriptions” from the File menu.

UPDATE 2010-01-16: Added New Weird Australia to the list.

Free song follow-up

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

In the first three months of this year, I’ve downloaded 2927 free songs. That’s not including the recent label samplers from the Amazon MP3 Store, nor the thousand-song influx that is the SXSW 2009 torrents.

From this, I estimate that I will download over 11,000 songs in this year alone.

My library right now, including everything I’ve ever bought, is 10,626 songs. Subtracting the 2927 mentioned above, I have 7699 songs that I didn’t get this year, or didn’t get for free. This means that this year’s free music will have multiplied the size of my library by about 250%.

I say this not to brag, but because my mind is blown. I’m going to more than double my library this year, for free. Legally. Without pirating a single song.


There’s no reason for anyone to pirate music anymore. Music DRM is dead, so the “moral” argument is gone, and you can get as much music as you can listen to without having to spend one red cent. If you have a specific song in mind, you usually can buy it from iTunes or Amazon—and if you don’t have the money to do that, why are you pirating music instead of looking for a job?

I do worry that this could backfire on artists. I barely have enough time to listen to everything I get for free, so I never listen to the rest of the songs on the album, which means I never buy the album. If enough people did what I do, the music economy would collapse.

You might say “why not just donate money to the artists?”. The main reason is, again, my limited time. Getting, tagging, and listening to all this free music takes up more spare time than I’d like already; now you’re proposing that I spend more time just to spend some money. I don’t feel guilty enough.

Two other reasons are that I don’t like donating money in exchange for nothing (the song was free), nor paying for things I already have. I’d rather buy the album, because then, I’m buying something I don’t already have.

Radio Paradise works well here. I hear songs that I like and must buy to have, and I buy them. This way actually makes money for artists.

But Radio Paradise isn’t perfect. The main problem, yet again, is that time issue: I no longer have much time at my computer when I’m not listening to fresh free music, and when such time does arrive, I usually use it to listen to what I already have (a rare break from the endless stream of new stuff). Radio Paradise loses badly in my schedule.

I take comfort in the possibility that I’m an outlier: the only one actually gathering as many of these songs as I do, while everyone else is content to only tap a few sources (e.g., iTunes + Amazon) and make up the rest with purchases. The artists get their due compensation, and I get my free music.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that there must be some better way.

Here’s something an artist could try: Set up a combination player and online store on your website. Let me listen to the entire album for free. Let me download any, say, two songs for free. If I want more than that, I have to pony up for the whole thing.

Another way would be something more like iTunes and Amazon, but with a much longer preview—let’s say half the song. I don’t know about you, but I find 30 seconds useless. With half-song previews, I could get a good sense of the song and whether I want it in my library, but it wouldn’t be worth just downloading the preview and adding that, since it’s only half the song.

The problem with both these solutions is that they, too, compete for time. I’m not sure I’d find it worth it for one artist. Perhaps a record label or independent online music store (like Insound) would be willing to try it.

The best solution I can think of would combine one of the above solutions with a streaming internet-radio player. I could open a browser window (or SSB) upon the player, and leave it running in the background. If I hear something I like, I could bookmark it, so that I could come back to it later to listen to it again, listen to the album (the whole thing, straight through), buy the song, buy the album, recommend the song on Twitter, or dismiss it.

What do you think? Am I inadvertently screwing over artists in these ideas? Should I stop looking the gift horses in the mouth and just take my free music? Are there better solutions than what I’ve suggested?

UPDATE 12:07 PDT: Just found this by random encounter: Amie Street, an experimental new music store. Its twist is that every song starts out “free or very cheap”, and goes up in price as more people buy it. Talk about demand-driven. I haven’t tried it, though—if any of you have, please speak up.

Sources of free music

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

By which I mean, sources that you can check periodically or subscribe to to receive a steady stream of free music.

For music podcasts, use a regular RSS reader (or a dedicated podcatcher, if you have one), not iTunes. I’ve had problems convincing iTunes to accept files into its Music library that I’d downloaded through its podcatcher.

These are some sites that I don’t personally subscribe to, but am aware of and occasionally benefit from indirectly (e.g., when Largehearted Boy posts a link to a Team Love track):

  • A site called RCRD LBL has a blog called RCRD SELECTOR, which provides a few free songs per day. The feed doesn’t use enclosure tags, which makes podcatching difficult, but I’m listing it anyway in case you’re OK with that.

  • You Ain’t No Picasso is primarily a music blog, although it has the occasional non-music-related post. Not every post has MP3s on it, but most do. Has a feed, but no enclosure tags. (Added 2008-12-17; thanks to Mike Krieger for linking to one of their posts on Twitter, and Colin for retweeting that link)

  • The Hype Machine aggregates a lot of MP3 blogs, including the aforementioned Stereogum. Has a feed, but no enclosure tags. (Added 2008-12-17; thanks to Colin for suggesting it on Twitter)

  • Team Love is a record label that gives away songs on their Library page. There’s no dedicated Library feed, so you’ll have to check back periodically (Tuesdays?).

    One thing you’ll notice is that the front page says in one paragraph that the Library is “open to the public 24/7”, and then in the next paragraph that you’ll need to open an account. There is some open-to-the-public access on the right side of the page (“Artists” and “Featured MP3s”); I don’t know what an account gets you.

    Added 2008-12-17. Thanks to Matt Morrell, who is a musician himself (with at least one song of his own available for free) and sent me the link on Twitter.

  • KRCW’s Today’s Top Tune podcast is another weekdaily rock-music podcast (with, of course, a a podcast feed). Note that not every episode is a song; for example, right now, the oldest of the three episodes in the feed is an interview with Tony Hawk. Note also that the song files have borked tags, with the artist in the title tag and the song title nowhere; you’ll have to fix these yourself.

    KCRW has other shows, but it looks like Today’s Top Tune is the only one you can stock your music library from. (Corrections welcome.)

    Thanks to Steven for linking to Today’s Top Tune in a comment.

If you know of other, similar sources, I invite you to link to them in the comments.

UPDATE 2009-03-26: Segregated sites I don’t subscribe to into their own list, and added Largehearted Boy, NME, and Spinner.
UPDATE 2009-04-06: Demoted KCRW to the sources-I-don’t-subscribe-to list. I get enough music from other sources now that I don’t care about it enough to deal with its broken tagging scheme.

Free stuff on Amazon: The full list

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The Amazon MP3 Store now has a list of all 1,429 free songs in their catalog. Some of these are from the archives, but the vast majority are newly-free, or at least newly-revealed.

Free stuff on Amazon: Now four at a time

Friday, December 28th, 2007

This week, rather than having one free song listed on the front page of the Amazon MP3 Store, they have four free songs listed on their Special Deals page.

Interesting how two of the songs (“100 Days, 100 Nights” and “Holiday Twist”) both sound like they’re from the 1960s, but they’re actually brand-new from this year. Also interesting how Los Straitjackets (“Holiday Twist”) have now had a free song on both iTunes (“Sleigh Ride”) and Amazon.

(And yes, I know that iTunes link doesn’t work. I don’t know why; it turns up in the search results.)

Free stuff on Amazon: Bonus free download

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

If you went to the Amazon MP3 Store on Wednesday and are like me, you stopped scrolling at the free download.

Keep scrolling—I did (just today), and found that there’s a second free download this week. Here’s the direct download link. Be aware that it’s a rap song with some naughty words in it.

No more free stuff on Amazon?

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Well, this sucks. It’s now Tuesday (when all the new music and DVDs come out here in the US), so I just now went to the Amazon MP3 store to see what this week’s free song is.

No luck. Just a week after I blogged about it, it looks like Amazon has stopped offering a free song, as there’s nothing about it on the front page anymore. And in case you’re wondering, last week’s free song was there yesterday (I went there yesterday and saw it).

I hope this isn’t permanent.

UPDATE 2007-10-17: Woo-hoo! It wasn’t. The free song section is back now, and updated with this week’s song.

Patience is a virtue, I guess. ☺

Free stuff on Amazon

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

It’s a bit hard to notice—they don’t promote it as obviously as Apple always has—but the Amazon MP3 Store also has a free song of the week. It’s the third box down in the left column, and it’s titled “Weekly Free Download”.

And, of course, unlike most of Apple’s free songs, Amazon’s free songs are free in two ways: free of charge, and DRM-free.

I am now an Amazon customer

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

They finally started selling something that I want to buy.

Almost since the iTunes Music Store first opened, I’ve been a customer of the iTunes Store. 99¢ a song is fine by me, and I love paying by the song. There are few albums so consistently good that I’ll buy the whole thing.

Then iTunes Plus started, and I immediately switched over. Sure, it’s 30¢ extra, but I pay that 30¢ as a statement against DRM.

Then came the Amazon MP3 Store.

Amazon sells plain old MP3s, at roughly 256 kbps VBR (in order that nobody can complain about the encoding quality). Since they’re plain old MP3s, there’s no DRM.

Even better, Amazon beats iTunes’ prices: 89–99¢ per song. iTunes charges $1.29 (remember, no DRM, so the proper comparison is to iTunes Plus rather than to non-Plus).

So, in short:

  • The encoding is almost as good as or better than iTunes.
  • The price is the same as or less than iTunes.
  • Amazon’s MP3s are never DRMed, whereas iTunes’ MPEG-4s are usually DRMed.

Like Simone, I shall buy from Amazon first from now on. (I haven’t switched away from iTunes; they’ll continue to get my business for songs that Amazon doesn’t carry. But, unfortunately for Apple, I expect that set to diminish.) Take notice of this, Apple—get the record labels to let you lower your prices, or you will lose serious market share to Amazon.

Just in case you’re wondering…

The Amazon MP3 Store works by downloading a file in a special format: .amz. This is a document for the Amazon MP3 Downloader application. (In case you’re wondering, the contents are some binary data, which may just be ciphertext of some sort, encoded in base64.)

The reason they do this is so that it can download the MP3s into a subfolder of your Music folder, rather than your usual Downloads folder (normally your Desktop). That’s good, but it has two downsides:

  1. You need a Windows or Mac OS X PC to download MP3s from Amazon, even though the MP3s themselves will play anywhere.
  2. If your browser is set not to auto-open files, or doesn’t trust the Amazon MP3 Downloader, then you may be sitting there for a moment wondering why the Downloader is not doing anything.

My suggestion to Amazon would be to switch to a custom URL scheme, rather than a custom file format. I don’t know about Windows, but this would certainly make it much easier on the Mac, since the custom URL scheme will always work. (It won’t help the non-Mac non-Windows users, though, since you still need the Amazon MP3 Downloader to handle the custom URL.)