Amazon goes after iTunes with new AutoRip service

Get free digital versions of your CD purchases over the last 15 years with AutoRip

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
January 10, 2013
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Gird your loins, Apple. Amazon just kicked it up another notch. The e-commerce overlord unveiled Thursday its new Cloud Player feature, AutoRip, which allows users to get a free digital copy of any qualifying CD purchase. But here’s the kicker: this includes any qualifying CD purchase you’ve made through Amazon in the last 15 years—as in, that Spice Girls CD that you bought back in 1998 and lost when you were moving out of your mom’s garage? You’ll find it in your cloud music player today like a cute little Easter egg.

It’s a bold move for Amazon to make, since the digital music space has long been the chief domain of Apple’s iTunes. Apple’s iTunes maintains a 64% market share of all U.S. digital music downloads, according to a September report from NPD Group. While Amazon launched its Cloud Player in 2011, it has a ways to go to try to beat Apple, which has been in the digital music game for nearly a decade.

But then poof—oh my God, it turns out we’ve all been using Amazon WAY longer than iTunes! In fact, our entire musical history is on Amazon right now!

Actually, I can’t say I’ve ever bought a CD through Amazon in my life. By the time I was old enough to start buying stuff online with my own credit card, iTunes had already come along. But still…

Amazon is sweetening the deal by offering several AutoRip CDs plus their digital counterparts for less than their asking price on iTunes—which Amazon casually points out in its announcement. So this is a full-scale attack on Apple. Adele’s album 21, for example, is available on iTunes for $10.99, but you can get both the CD and the MP3 version for $9.99 on Amazon. Similarly, Taylor Swift’s album Red is available on iTunes for $14.99, compared to $11.99 on Amazon.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the financial workings, but if Amazon is paying for the digital licensing as well as the CDs themselves, then the company is clearly taking a loss on this—and it wouldn’t be the first time. When the Kindle first came out, Amazon priced all e-books at $9.99 or less, which meant it was paying full price and offering the books for less in order to push Kindle sales.

Amazon made a deal with the four major U.S. record companies—EMI, Sony, Universal, and Warner—in June 2012 for full licensing rights to their music, which gave Amazon the legal right to scan and match music from your hard drive to its cloud player. Thus, you don’t have to go through the painful process of uploading each individual song from your hard drive to the cloud player.

Amazon shares are up 2.09% in the last five days to $263.73.

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