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The combination of familiarity, convenience and accrued trust could give Amazon MP3 a leg up on other challengers to the iTunes Music Store.

AMAZON MP3 OPEN FOR BUSINESS

New Store Has Welcoming Feel, Competitive Prices and Enhanced-Quality, DRM-Free Tracks, but No Music Yet From SBMG or WMG
Amazon.com opened a beta version of its music-download store this morning under the name Amazon MP3, and going there for the first time will be a reassuring experience for anyone who has shopped on the parent site.

The store’s home page features the familiar light blue graphics and drop-down functions, as well as the comforting “Hello,” followed by the customer’s name. Existing Amazon accounts work here as well, and the one-click purchase option is in effect. The combination of familiarity, convenience and accrued trust could give Amazon MP3 a leg up on other challengers to the iTunes Music Store.

That challenge won’t be a serious one, of course, until Sony BMG and Warner Music come to the party. Up to now, both companies have refused to remove copy protection from their downloads, and Amazon MP3 only sells DRM-free tracks.

What’s new are the lists, topped by New and Notable MP3 Albums (five in all, starting with Keyshia Cole and also including Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew, Common, Vanguard’s Fats Domino tribute and Joni Mitchell’s new Starbucks/Hear Music release).

Below are four lists of 25 songs/artists each: Today’s Top MP3 Songs (#1 is Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”), Today’s Top MP3 Artists (Kanye West is #1, but veteran indie band Apples in Stereo is listed second), Amazon Spotlight: Featured Songs (starting with Keyshia Cole’s “Let It Go”) and Amazon Spotlight: Featured Artists (#1 is Eminem, and four of his albums are shown at the bottom of the page).

Below that quartet is a group of five Featured MP3 Albums $7.99 or Less (the StonesSticky Fingers, the DecemberistsThe Crane Wife, Norah JonesCome Away With Me and GorillazDemon Days, all $7.99).  

In another smart strategic move, a headline right below the store logo shouts, “MP3 Music Downloads for Any Media Player!” Alongside it is a graphic showing a domino-like receding row of players, with the iPod Classic in front and the Zune behind it.

A la carte downloads cost 89-99 cents and the vast majority of albums sell for $5.99 to $9.99, though a few are priced under $4, with EPs even less. A four-track maxi-single of Lily Allen’s “Smile,” for example, sells for $1.87.

Amazon MP3 says its opening-day catalog encompasses 2 million songs. The extremely appealing look and feel of the store would certainly seem to put Sony BMG and WMG on the clock.

HITS LIST: AMPERSANDS
Dynamic duos (12/3a)
TAYLOR'S TREMENDOUS YEAR
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
THEY CALL THE WINDFALL MARIAH (HOLIDAY EDITION)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
SONG REVENUE:
BOWS OF HOLLY
Adele is money. (12/3a)
UTA MUSIC EXPANDS IN NASHVILLE
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
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