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