Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

listening   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads 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.

songpreview1   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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).

songpreview2   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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.

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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.

downloadsong4   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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.

downloadsong5   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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.

downloadsong6   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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.

downloadsong7   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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.

downloadsong8   Break Free From iTunes With Amazon Music Downloads

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!

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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.

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19 Comments -

0 votes

CF

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.

0 votes

Antony

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

0 votes

Ryan Dube

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. ;)

0 votes

Mark O'Neill

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.

0 votes

Chuck

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.

0 votes

Sara

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0 votes

Lisa

I can’t believe that no one has yet mentioned Lala.com! 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! :)

0 votes

Shane

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 mp3shake.com and soundike.com . 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.

0 votes

Mo

What is DRM?

0 votes

Mark O'Neill

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.

0 votes

Mo

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?

0 votes

Mark O'Neill

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.

0 votes

Shane

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.

0 votes

Mo

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

0 votes

douig kerswell

Hi all,

This is an interesting discussion. I’d like to add another music purchasing service to the list: http://www.emusic.com.

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.

Thanks,
Doug

0 votes

Nat

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

0 votes

Shane

Check out http://www.soundike.com and mp3shake.com . They are both based outside the U.S. AND you get more for your money.

0 votes

Emily Hester

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?

0 votes

Frederick

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.