UPDATED: After more than a year of speculation, The Amazon DRM-free download store has finally opened with an impressive 2,323,235 mp3's available from 180,000 artists on 20,000 labels. All tracks are 256 kps mp3's priced at 89 to 99 cents.
Included are thousands of tracks from Universal (more it appears than are available elsewhere) and virtually the entire EMI catalog including Radiohead and Pink Floyd. Missing are digital hold outs The Beatles and Bob Seger.
Leading independent labels offering their catalog of music for the first time DRM-free include Alligator, HighTone, Madacy, Sanctuary, Rounder, Righteous Babe, Sugar Hill, Trojan and Phillip Glass' Orange Mountain.
Vanguard/Sugar Hill/Welk, who have been experimenting with a limited mp3 offering via eMusic has a much broader selection on Amazon. Drag City and Red House who had left eMusic's subscription service are now available as mp3's on Amazon. But eMusic's most high profile defections Epitaph and Victory have not yet made the jump to Amazon.
No downloads from Sony BMG or WMG are available on Amazon, but some labels distributed by WMG owned ADA are available including Beggars Group, Merge and Touch & Go. Several other ADA distributed labels are absent from today's launch.
While there is a distinct mp3 section and chart, Amazon has smartly also positioned downloads alongside CD's in the general music section. Search for the Beatles and you'll find only CD's for sale. Search for most other EMI artists and you'll find mp3's also available.
Amazon has priced more than 1 million songs lower than iTunes price at 89 cents including most of the top 100 selling tracks. Other songs are priced at the industry standard 99 cents. Full album purchase is encouraged with most albums priced from $5.99 to $9.99 with much of top 100 best-selling albums at $8.99 or less.
As with most Amazon offerings, ease of use should be a major draw. Customers can purchase downloads using Amazon 1-Click shopping and using a special Amazon MP3 Downloader add their mp3s to their iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries. Amazon's popular recommendation feature looks back up on all of your previous CD purchases to provide instant download suggestions.