DRM-free MP3 downloads from Amazon

Two years after I first laid out my plea to be able to download music the way I wanted, Amazon have pretty much come through. My canonical test song whenever someone announces a new music service is “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone, and here it is on Amazon.com. So, let’s test this service against my list of requirements.

  • I can download one track, instead of a whole album; I don’t want ten Nina Simone songs, I just want the one I’m looking for - PASS
  • No DRM. None. I don’t mind what the format is, if there’s no DRM, as long as it can be played on Linux (which is pretty much everything). Bonus points for oggs. Half a bonus point for just plain mp3. - PASS
  • A track costs a pound or less. I’m not paying more than a quid for one song. - PASS (99c is about 50p)
  • I feel comfortable putting my credit card number into the site. This means, in practice, that if it’s called something like mp3downloads.haxx0r.ru, I am not interested. - PASS
  • I can just buy a song by putting my credit card number in and getting it for download. I don’t need to sign up for an account, give them all my details, none of that. - FAIL
  • My music tastes aren’t very eclectic, so I’d expect the service to carry most of what I’d want to listen to. This means that a service for one label alone isn’t really what I want. I don’t want to discover new music with this; I want to get the stuff I already know about and want to listen to. - PASS
  • I’ll get, probably, about five songs a year. So a subscription service is out, especially since with most of them your music stops working when you unsubscribe. - PASS

So it only fails on one thing: you need to sign up for an account. However, I already have an Amazon account. This is still technically a failure — because my desire for no signup was not only for my own benefit but because I didn’t want it to be a powerplay by some firm who would then spam everyone who bought mp3s until the end of time — but largely people already have Amazon accounts and Amazon have shown themselves (in my experience) to be reasonable citizens in this regard. I don’t receive lots of spam or unsolicited “recommendations” from them, and (from a web, if not open source perspective) I think the Amazon Web Services are a Good Thing. So although that’s a fail I’m prepared to let it slide. Well done Amazon, I say. I suspect that it’s only tracks from some record companies, or some labels, or some other criterion that I don’t care about, but since my test track appears there they must have at least some of the music I like. Now I get to start buying mp3s. Update: dammit, it requires a US billing address. Obviously I could lie about that, but if I was happy to lie then I’d just google for the mp3. So it’s presumably US-only at this point. Anyone got any contacts at Amazon who could give me an indication as to when or whether it’s being rolled out to other countries?

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