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Up until a few years ago, I had never really been into downloading music. Seriously – I was so old school. Give me one of those little radio-tuner players that look like a memory stick and I’m good to go.

However, one night I was sitting at the computer and came across one of the coolest MP3 downloads of the Beatles song “Revolution” and I realized how cool it would be to download the songs that I want, exactly when I want them. So, gritting my teeth, I decided to get with the program – and the most popular music download application of choice was iTunes.

I had an MP3 player already, and figured since iTunes had one of the coolest interfaces to find music downloads, I’d go with that. After my first purchased download, I realized that while the song played fabulous within the iTunes player – there’s no easy way to transfer iTunes music that you purchase over to MP3 devices. You need an iPod. Great. I wasn’t about to go out and buy an iPod since I already had an MP3 player.

I spent a few weeks struggling to rig up a system that would convert my iTunes purchases into MP3 music, and then testing out a variety of freeware and hacks that promised to convert iTunes over to high quality MP3, I realized that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get a high quality MP3 from my iTunes purchases.

Sure, I could go to Wal-Mart or Target and download music files – but I’d already purchased a whole collection of iTunes tracks. Frustrated and disgusted with iTunes, Apple and the whole mess – I went back to listening to the radio.  However, a few years later and a few years wiser, I’m back in the game – and I’m back thanks to Amazon Music Downloads.

Amazon Music Downloads Combines Instant Play With Flexible Options

Here’s what struck me as perfect about the Amazon Downloader. With iTunes, you have a slick interface to browse through music, listen to small samples and download and play tracks or albums. In my opinion, iTunes is still one of the best interfaces around for browsing and playing music.

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On the other hand, if you don’t want to stay attached to your computer – you’re really out of luck if you don’t have an iPod. On the flip side, places like Wal-Mart or Target would let you purchase and download specific MP3 tracks, but it was a very manual process where you purchase and download the file and then load it into whichever player or device you like. In a way, the Amazon music downloader is very similiar to the Wal-Mart and Target approach, however it provides a slick and convenient way to integrate the online song browsing area of Amazon’s website with your Media player.


This year, the UK’s Guardian took notice of the fact that Amazon is coming out punching with competitive pricing on music downloads in order to compete with iTunes in a big way. Just browsing through the main MP3 downloads site at Amazon, you can see that for yourself. The prices are competitive enough, and just like on iTunes, when you click on a song there’s a “play” button that you can use to listen to a sample clip of the song. I found a cool track from the movie Transformer’s – Linkin Park’s New Divide, a very cool tune based on the sample (I can’t wait to see the movie).


Installing the Amazon Music Downloader

In addition, if you look at the top of Amazon’s MP3 Download section, you’ll notice a link to Install the MP3 downloader. In my opinion, it’s this feature, in addition to the fact that the downloaded music can be played in any MP3 capable device that you may own, that’s going to give Amazon the competitive advantage. People don’t like to have their hands tied when they pay for music. The download is available for Windows, Mac or Linux.


Once you download and install the application, it runs in the background and shows up in your taskbar. The software takes up hardly any resources, and it handles all of your music downloads while you can continue surfing – this includes managing the download of multiple files as well as automatically inserting them for you into your Media Player library (in the case of Windows – Windows Media Player).  Whenever you’re browsing Amazing MP3 downloads and you decide to buy a song, you’ll first have to pass through the purchase review screen.


Once you click “continue,” the file download box will pop up – make sure to unclick “Always ask before opening this type of file,” before you select “Open” so that the next time you go to download a song, it’ll just automatically allow the Amazon Downloader application to handle the file for you without any interaction on your part.


Once the download is complete, your new song appears in the Amazon MP3 Downloader title list that shows you all of the songs you’ve downloaded. The application is really less of an interface as it is a tool to seamlessly pass your downloads through to your media player library.


To make sure that “pass-through” takes place as it should, within the downloader applicatoin click on File -> Preferences. On the following screen, you’ll want to make sure that the “When a track finishes downloading…” selection box contains the option to pass the track into Windows Media Player.


Integrating With Windows Media Player and MP3 Devices

Once your download completes, the media player will automatically open. Your purchased title appears in the “All Music” category, where you can listen to it or move it into your own playlists. This feature means that there’s no need to keep track of where your file downloads, and you don’t have to go through the extra steps of opening up the media player and manually adding the song into your library. Once you purchase and download – it’s done.


If you want to open up the file to transfer it over to your MP3 device, just click on the “View Download Folder” at the top menu bar inside the Amazon MP3 Downloader. The directory where your files are located will open, and you can either burn them to a CD, download them to your favorite MP3 device, or simply admire what it looks like to truly own music files that you can do whatever you want with – you don’t have to play them in a specific device!


I don’t mean to knock iTunes, we love the application and write about it all the time, like Saikat’s awesome article on how to fix a lost link to the iTunes music library How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library How to Fix & Repair the Lost Link to The iTunes Music Library Read More .  Ultimately, it really does have one of the best written music browse/music player applications in the industry. However the desire to maintain a proprietary stronghold of the music format is probably going to keep iTunes at a major competitive disadvantage. I, for one, intend to become a loyal Amazon MP3 Downloader fan from now on. Another great option, if you’re interested in more of a player/downloader application, check out Mark’s review of Mozilla’s Songbird Move Over iTunes - Mozilla's Songbird is Here Move Over iTunes - Mozilla's Songbird is Here Read More .

If you’re not really a fan of iTunes, let’s hope Jackson can turn you into one with his posts: How to Improve Your iTunes Experience Part One How to Improve Your iTunes Experience (Part 1) [Mac Only] How to Improve Your iTunes Experience (Part 1) [Mac Only] Read More and Two How to Improve Your iTunes Experience (Part 2) [Mac Only] How to Improve Your iTunes Experience (Part 2) [Mac Only] Read More . Also, not forgetting, MakeUseOf has put in a lot of effort into creating a PDF Manual for you iTunes newbies: The BIG Book of iTunes The iTunes Guide [PDF Guide] The iTunes Guide [PDF Guide] Read More . Grab it now!

What’s your favorite source for cheap MP3 music downloads? Have you read 3 Ultra Cheap Alternatives To iTunes Store 3 Ultra Cheap Alternatives To iTunes Store 3 Ultra Cheap Alternatives To iTunes Store Read More ? What do you think of the Amazon Music Download application? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

  1. Frederick
    September 10, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    That's all well and good, but I cannot sync or share any purchases made from Amazon with my iphone currently. I dunno if that's iTunes 9 doing that.

  2. Emily Hester
    August 11, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I know I'm hopelessly behind, but I still play my music from CD's. What do I use to buy, download, and burn CD's?

  3. Nat
    July 28, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Is there any website where non-US customers can buy music? Seems like all these are US-only: iTunes, Amazon, eMusic.

    • Shane
      July 28, 2009 at 10:39 am

      Check out and . They are both based outside the U.S. AND you get more for your money.

  4. douig kerswell
    July 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Hi all,

    This is an interesting discussion. I'd like to add another music purchasing service to the list:

    All of emusic's files are DRM free mp3 files, and the emusic downloader will automatically add the downloaded music files to a number of different media players, including Windows Media Player and iTunes.

    Emusic is a monthly subscription service, but it works out far cheaper than iTunes or Amazon.

    The downside to emusic is that the majorty of their music is on independent labels, but they have just added Sony to their library and intend to add other major labels in the coming months.


  5. Mo
    July 21, 2009 at 10:09 am

    You are all a wealth of information - this just may get me to convert to another music player. Thanks!

  6. Mark O'Neill
    July 21, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Well there is a fast paid method and a free longer method.

    I personally use the paid app Noteburner which burns the songs to MP3 format very quickly. But they have raised the price to $35 now which is really expensive. But saying that the software is excellent and works perfectly at converting all your songs to MP3.

    The free method is a lot longer and much more hassle but it DOES work. Simon covered the method here.

    • Shane
      July 21, 2009 at 9:56 am

      If you happen to have Nero installed on your computer, they have an app to easily and quickly convert iTunes files to other formats, including DRM-free mp3's.

      Foobar2000, the open-source music player also has this capability. If you google music files conversion, you'll probably find numerous free sites &/or software that can help you out.

  7. Mo
    July 21, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Got it, thanks now I understand DRM. I'm so far invested in iTunes music (about $800 in music) I am trapped and have no choice but to stick with them. I'm being held hostage. I would like a legal way to remove the DRM from the iTunes songs, is there any software out there or am I stuck?

  8. Mo
    July 20, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    What is DRM?

    • Mark O'Neill
      July 21, 2009 at 8:20 am

      Digital Rights Management. In this case, it is when a music file can only be played on one specific device (e.g. the iPod) and on no other player. If you try to play an iTunes file on another player, it is blocked and won't work. It's supposed to stop music piracy but it is highly controversial.

  9. Shane
    July 21, 2009 at 1:27 am

    I stopped using iTunes long ago because it's such a bloated system-hog of a program.

    Amazon's mp3 download service is good, I agree, but even better are the sites and . They offer high-quality mp3's (usually 192 kbps) for pennies on the dollar. You can download a whole album for under $3 and they have extensive libraries.

    The only caveat is that they don't necessarily have new releases the very week they come out, but their libraries are extensive. Also, you can't buy JUST an individual album, but rather have to purchase "balances" of $20, $30 at a time, which is fine with me because I get so much for my money.

    I've amassed quite a library of my favorite albums this way.
    You can download individual songs for a quarter and their offerings are very well organized by artist, genre, charts, etc.

  10. Lisa
    July 20, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I can't believe that no one has yet mentioned! Not only can you play the entire song for free once (as opposed to a few seconds), you can buy the song and play it on the web endlessly for ten cents! If you then want to download the song for some sort of mp3 device, songs are usually 99 cents, are completely DRM free and have a bitrate of 256. Way better than itunes, IMHO! :)

  11. Sara
    July 21, 2009 at 12:00 am

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  12. Chuck
    July 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I've pretty much always bought my music through iTunes, as I like it's easy device and media management...and the podcast management. I'm not interested in giving up iTunes until there's something just flawless that comes along to replace it (and I haven't seen that yet). However, I am with you in that I'm starting to buy from Amazon more and more, and just importing into iTunes. You don't have the DRM issue (ever), the quality is higher...and just as importantly as anything else you mentioned, THE MUSIC IS OFTEN CHEAPER at Amazon. The other day, I grabbed an MP3 album for $6.99 at Amazon, and it was either $9.99 or $10.99 on iTunes. On a sidenote, DON'T buy your audiobooks thru iTunes. Get them thru Audible. They are almost always cheaper there, and like Amazon, they have an app that will auto-import stuff into iTunes for you.

  13. Antony
    July 20, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    You're a few years late with this article. ITunes has now also scrapped DRM. Research is a valuable thing.

    • Ryan Dube
      July 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for your comment Antony. You are right, however I'm "months" not "years" late - I'm not sure how you translate early 2009 into years...this happened this year and is certainly news to me (although I'm glad to hear it). Fact is, iTunes was proprietary for years - Amazon went out the gate doing it the right way. I'm sticking with Amazon anyway - simply for the principle of the thing. ;)

      • Mark O'Neill
        July 20, 2009 at 1:35 pm

        and as I discovered the other day when I bought an album on iTunes, not ALL iTunes are DRM-free now. A lot of the older albums are still in iTunes format. Only the newer stuff are DRM-free.

  14. CF
    July 20, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I'm with you. Refuse to use iTunes because of their proprietary stance, and like you, had an MP3 player first (not an ipod). I use a combination of Amazon and Napster to purchase MP3s and Rhapsody to listen (they give you 25 free FULL SONG listens per month). Thanks for the review.

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