Amazon MP3 sales up, Apple still rules market

More than a few of you will probably get iTunes gift cards in your stockings this year. And why not? With a whopping 66.2% of the digital music market according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is the clear leader. In fact, its share of the market actually rose four percentage points from last year.

iTunes wasn’t the only digital music service on the rise, though. Amazon MP3’s slice of the pie increased from 11% to 13.3% over the same period, solidifying the online retailer’s position as Apple’s biggest competitor. Jobs and company had a head start, of course. Amazon didn’t get into the downloadable music scene until 2007, some four years after Apple bagan hawking tracks with iTunes.

One of the biggest benefits of buying music online is being able to purchase tracks individually. Interestingly, single-song sales appear to have plateaued; the WSJ says they rose only 0.3% over the last year. Sales of downloadable albums, on the other hand, have risen 13% since 2009. That trend should favor Amazon, which has made a point of offering full-album downloads at lower prices than what’s available from iTunes. However, Apple customers have long shown a willingness to pay extra to remain within the Reality Distortion Field.

Interestingly, the WSJ points out that Amazon hasn’t done much to promote its MP3 service. Apple is considerably more aggressive, perhaps because it doesn’t have to worry about cannibalizing sales of physical media. Amazon still sells plenty of music the old-fashioned way, and that’s how I buy most of my own music. MP3s are undoubtedly the future of the music industry, though, and Apple still has a commanding dominance of that market may be unassailable.

Comments closed
    • BenBasson
    • 9 years ago

    I constantly find it astonishing that Apple has made so much money through one of the most clunky pieces of software I’ve ever experienced. I don’t understand how Apple customers can deal with this on a daily basis.

    The iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad are so intuitive and pleasant to use, and then you open iTunes and it’s like someone’s kicking you in the face from behind your monitor.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      i hear this alot, and maybe I use iTunes wrong, but how is the interface bad? It’s easy to navigate your media (hit Ctrl+B and you get a nice genre/artist/album selector, and multi-select with ctrl works). It’s easy to make a playlist. It’s easy to sync the device. Buying stuff on the store is a little strange if you don’t know what you want (browsing is harder than searching, I mean) but otherwise I can’t really *complain*. Lots of people do, but I don’t see what’s wrong for everyday use.

        • blastdoor
        • 9 years ago

        Yeah, I don’t get it either. I like iTunes. Of course, I also like Microsoft office (especially 2011) and I guess I’m not supposed to do that either.

          • KoolAidMan
          • 9 years ago

          Yup, it’s fine, and I don’t really have issues with other software either.

          Hell, I see people complain about /[

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            I haven’t got enough fingers to count the number of people hating iTunes around me.
            I think it’s like everything with Apple: if you use it the way _[

            • dashbarron
            • 9 years ago

            Maybe this is me, I don’t know.

            I just received an iPod touch and I’m using iTunes basically for the first time my “first” impression of iTunes isn’t good. I think the browsing is clunky and it is laggy enough to annoy me with the continual pauses. The intital import/sync feature downright sucks and while the automated sync feature for apps and music through iTunes works without much issue, importing new songs and folders is anything but streamless (unless you just import one massive folder). I’m also not a fan of always being logged into iTunes for downloading apps and music, especially since Apple insists you have your payment option linked to your account (you can disable this option but why not keep it on there and just not login if you’re a freebie app hunter like me?).

            I do like the simple if not annoying ID editor and the ability to edit several tags at once. For someone who just edits songs causually this feature was a small plus. I haven’t tried Genius yet either, but I’ve heard good things about it. On a side note I liked the Zune HD vs the 3rd gen iPod better (I have a 4th now), but the app store selection is great vs the non existent Microsoft alternative.

            Also, I’m one of those Steam haters. Disconnects when authentication fails mid-game, map mis-matchup errors on offical servers, 1995 Steampowered browsing, the list goes on. The icing on the cake is when you get booted from the game and then an ad pops up advertising the latest and greatest deal from Steam. Grrrrr!

            • KoolAidMan
            • 9 years ago

            “The icing on the cake is when you get booted from the game and then an ad pops up advertising the latest and greatest deal from Steam. Grrrrr!”

            See, this is exactly what I’m talking about!

            Steam > Settings > Interface tab > Uncheck the box that says “Notify me”.

            Voila!

            I’m not harping on you, but I do think people should take a moment to look at their software before bashing on it. More often then not the designers have done a decent job.

            • dashbarron
            • 9 years ago

            I looked through the settings once upon a time but must of missed. Cheers for the tip.

            I still hate Steam.

        • travbrad
        • 9 years ago

        The interface is fine for the most part, but it does have a weird “lag” that lasts a just a few ms. The lag was a lot worse in WinXP, but it’s still there in Windows 7. It’s not a deal killer, but when combined with the poor skinning support (I want to listen to music not be blinded) and crappy visualizer it’s not a terribly attractive option.

        The lag has followed me through 3 installs of WinXP, a beta of Win7 32, the RC of Win7 32, and the retail Win7 64, and also various hardware upgrades. So somehow I don’t think the problem is on my end 😉

        It’s probably not even noticeable to the vast majority of people though. Most people’s computers lag in excel/word (yay for bloatware), let alone iTunes

      • End User
      • 9 years ago

      I made the switch to Ubuntu (on my primary workstarion) over a year ago and I must admit, I miss iTunes.

      • nerdrage
      • 9 years ago

      I’m told that the Mac version of iTunes is orders of magnitude better than the PC version.

    • codedivine
    • 9 years ago

    Unfortunately Amazon MP3 store is not available in Canada while iTunes has been here for many years.

    • jdaven
    • 9 years ago

    “However, Apple customers have long shown a willingness to pay extra to remain within the Reality Distortion Field.”

    AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

    This is getting so annoying TR.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      lol. jdaven, he’s just teasing. 🙂 geoff doesn’t like some of apple’s politics, but the rest don’t care. scott has 2 iphones, as you probably know. it’s all in good fun 😉

        • jdaven
        • 9 years ago

        I just wish they would be either funny on all stories or none of the stories. Since all companies are corrupt, evil, greedy entities, why single out just one because of some stupid made-up PC vs. Mac war back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    I am an Amazon MP3 purchaser. I only purchase music from Amazon – it’s convenient and free of DRM and I don’t have to deal with Apple’s software or formats. And I’m not real big into music, really. Hardly ever listen to music. Don’t have an MP3 player.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      but you’ve got a mic now! we’ve got to put it to good use!

    • PenGun
    • 9 years ago

    I never use mp3s, my ears don’t like em’.

    • blastdoor
    • 9 years ago

    If Apple was able to defeat free pirated music with iTunes, why would anyone be surprised that Apple can defeat Amazon’s non-free music?

    People value convenience and iTunes provides that convenience. Apple appears to be pretty far above average when it comes to understanding consumers.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      The iTunes Store had a 4 year head start, the iPod/iTunes combination of brands have been household names for almost 10 years, and yet, Amazon is gaining market share. You have a very funny definition of defeat.

        • Corrado
        • 9 years ago

        You can still use AmazonMP3 files on an iPod.

      • cynan
      • 9 years ago

      Yes. And people also value apple: Marketing works (along with whatever super addictive magic fairy dust Apple has laced their products with).

      But you are correct. Itunes is the probably the most convenient *[

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    That last sentence is kinda sad – MP3s are undoubtedly the future of the music industry. I’m not going to make typical audiophile arguments like “vinyl is best” but a lossy format being the future is just too bad. Yes, psychoacoustic models are improving and higher bitrates don’t have the immediately audible weirdo artifacting that lower bitrates do, but with movies going the other way – higher bitrates, bitstreaming, lossless audio, etc. I would hope to see music do the same. More fidelity, not less.

      • kvndoom
      • 9 years ago

      If only we could go back in time to the 90’s and push FLAC as the compression method of choice, before digital music became the norm.

        • swaaye
        • 9 years ago

        My hard drive in 1998 was 4GB and I was likely an outlier. And almost everyone was on 28.8kbps. Size is why MP3 won. A FLAC file only pulls off around 50-60% of uncompressed PCM.

        That most people seem to be using flash players with only a few gigs of space isn’t helping things. There’s also the issue of most people are not concerned (or aware of) paying for lossy audio. And that most of these people listen through horrible earbuds or simply don’t care about lossy artifacts. AAC is a lot better than a year 2k MP3 too.

        But I use FLAC without exception these days. I mean why not? It’s not like audio uses up a significant amount of space anymore.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 9 years ago

          Good software for portable media players can resample on the fly for copying to the device. iTunes does it for my 32GB iPod Touch (a little checkbox saying to convert to 128kbps AAC, which sounds as good as 128kbps WMA, and better than any 128kbps MP3) and many folks would say it’s not even good software. If Apple can do it why can’t everyone?

          Also, even a 4GB player would hold plenty of FLAC audio (or similarly compressed Apple Lossless) that it shouldn’t be an issue. The issue is whether or not the player can actually play lossless, which most choose not to do.

          • cynan
          • 9 years ago

          This is all too true. There is a significant proportion of customers who just don’t care about what they perceive as a minimal or even unoticeable difference in fidelity between the lossy and lossless digital formats (and many of them of them haven’t even heard of “lossless” or “flac”). I would argue that with the way much of today’s mainstream music is engineered, most people would be hardpressed to tell the difference between a propoerly encoded >=192 VBR mp3 and the original track – which is telling in itself.

          The ugly truth is that much of today’s music is being engineered for lossyness (real word?). The only reason why Blurays have lossless tracks is because most of them have bags of extra capacity. And, for example, there aren’t too many teenagers with the requisite Bluray/surround sound setups to make use of them – while there are millions of young people buying mp3s over the Internet.

          Like anything else governed by “free” market rules, things end up being catered to the lowest common denominator – all those darn kids buying mp3s to fill their bleepin’ Ipod doohickies.

          And don’t think this is the first time this has happened with the music industry. Look how popular cassette tapes were in the 80s, etc, and too a lesser extent, A-tracks in the 70s, over superior sounding vinyl because it was just a more convenient physical medium. In much the same way, smaller files sizes as is found with lossy formats is a similar compromise. Though I agree, with today’s faster download speeds and increasingly cheaper storage media, this is changing.

          Sadly, the music industry won’t bother catching up to these changes until the majority of their customers let them know they actually care (though, to be fair, the standard bitrate at most online sites seems to have increased over the last couple of years, with 256k being fairly common now – but I definitely agree that lossless, in this day and age and for the future, is the way to go)

          • kvndoom
          • 9 years ago

          I’ll admit that I rip all my CD’s to my hard drive as 320k MP3’s. It’s just much easier for compatibility. My car stereo won’t play any other compressed format. I hope one day other formats become more commonplace but for now MP3 has won.

          I can’t really say I hear much or any difference between 320k and .wav either. I don’t do a lot of headphone listening anymore, so maybe I could tell there, if I did.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            i can’t tell the difference between 128bit and wav. my speakers suck 🙁

            • swaaye
            • 9 years ago

            It does become exceptionally difficult to hear the difference between a ~192kbps MP3 and the original. Once you get up around 256kbps it is nigh impossible unless you look for corner cases where the compression is unable to manage.

            The corner cases are pretty interesting though. Harpsichords apparently cause major issues. 😉

            • swaaye
            • 9 years ago

            I found a magical program called LAMEdropXPd that can take FLAC input files. Drag and drop right on the little app and it converts away, even keeping tags. This makes it super easy to make some MP3s out of a FLAC collection if need be.

            There’s also a FLACdrop. I use that when making FLACs from wav files.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      “More fidelity, not less.”

      I have bigger problems in that department with the source than the delivery method. Most recordings suck, like 99%+ of rock music-related mastering jobs suck, and it’s just been getting worse for over a decade.

        • Corrado
        • 9 years ago

        Welcome to the age of ‘Anyone with a PC can record and mix’! Lots of people doing something means the quality is going to go down. Theres a reason people spend 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars going to school to learn to mix and produce. Joe Schmoe gets a new MacBook and thinks with Garage Band that he’s Phil Spector or Joe Meek.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 9 years ago

          loudness wars have been going on far longer than that. Ever since brick wall hardware limiters have been around, bands have wanted “louder” albums, and the audio quality really, realy suffers as a result.

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 9 years ago

          “Theres a reason people spend 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars going to school to learn to mix and produce.”

          Lol what good producer or engineer did that?

          The quality is going down because everyone knows their work is just going to be annihilated when it’s mastered. They either don’t care to try and truly make it sound natural and clear or they just over compress everything for an overbearingly punchy and in your face sound with the expectation that it’s going to be turned into a square wave.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        I agree, but it’s kind of fortuitous that I happen to not enjoy pop music. Everything aiming to get on mainstream top-40 radio has this problem and when you don’t like that genre of music, loudness wars are easy to ignore.

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 9 years ago

          Well I don’t know what you listen to, but I haven’t heard a rock album in years that wasn’t screwed up somehow. The entire problem is that it’s NOT limited to the top 40. Everyone and their dog is doing it.

            • Anomymous Gerbil
            • 9 years ago

            I can’t understand why CDs aren’t released with (at least) two mixes; one compressed mix for MP3/digital player usage, and one mixed properly for use on decent systems.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 9 years ago

            It’s not quite that bad, I know you’re just exagerrating for dramatic effect but there are definitely well-mastered albums being released, and I’d be curious to see a list of ablums you think are loudness war ‘square-waved’ to the point of mastering distortion versus simply being mastered ‘loud’ with less dynamic range. The former is loudness wars to the point of being unlistenable (Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication CD or Metallica’s Death Magnetic CD) while the latter is ‘loudness police action’ at worst…there’s no mastering distortion so it doesn’t make me cringe while listening but maybe not as much dymnamic range as there could be. The latter may be a matter of artistic intent too though, apparently the artists often ask for the final mix to sound that way.

    • Kurotetsu
    • 9 years ago

    I wish either Amazon or iTunes would give the option of buying a lossless version. I always rip CDs to lossless, usually FLAC, for archiving before encoding in MP3 or AAC. Having the option of buying the tracks in a lossless format would eliminate any need to buy CDs, for me at least.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      I use Apple Lossless in iTunes, but I do the same with my CDs. Gotta have it as good as I can get and have it archived prior to converting to a lossy format.

      • End User
      • 9 years ago

      l[

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    also, should be “and why not”, not Any

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    It’s obvious they control the market, I’m not sure how this is news. It’s another example of the market failing. Itunes is crap. but money talks. there are better options than this horrible POS, but people still use it. markets fail all the time. capitalism, as it currently exists, blows.

      • 5150
      • 9 years ago

      ^

      • cygnus1
      • 9 years ago

      i disagree. just shows apple being better at capitalism.

      capitalism doesn’t always mean the “best” product or service wins.

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        being better at crap. markets are supposed to provide the best of everything. that’s the whole idea. any market that isn’t has an inefficiency somewhere, like a monopoly, and that “should” be fixed. markets blow. and so does this whole system.

          • cygnus1
          • 9 years ago

          l[

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            i would generally list best as most desirable. that’s semantics, imo.

            • cygnus1
            • 9 years ago

            well, in that case, apple wins. they’re service is clearly, considering their sales numbers, most desirable. maybe not to you, but definitely many more people than find amazon’s service desirable.

            As services go, I personally prefer MS Zune, except currently they’re hardware sucks. i’ll be tempted to go back to it when there’s a win7 phone capable of 64GB of storage. right now i’m sticking with my 32GB 3gs and the garbage that is itunes.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            I also like the zune, and i wouldn’t say the hardware is garbage. it was certainly better, right up until the latest refresh of the ipod, and even then, the zune does have tegra inside, and is also capable of the ut3 engine. teh only reason that apple is used, is because they have a monopoly on the mp3 player market. they did “earn” it, but it’s a real monopoly, and earning doesn’t change that fact. Standard oil earned theirs too.

            my point however, is that apple is successfully selling a poor product. nobody in their right mind would argue that itunes is a good product. iphone, ipod, sure, itunes, no way. it’s horrible. everyone knows that. It’s the failure of the market to provide a good alternative that is successful. people bought from standard oil as well. didn’t mean that the product they were selling was the most desirable, just that more people bought it.

            • cygnus1
            • 9 years ago

            Agreed, garbage was too strong. I loved my 120GB Zune, it’s still worlds better as a music player than anything Apple has ever sold or still sells. But I just got tired of carrying two devices. And a year and a half ago when I bought my 3gs, the iphone was the best combo smartphone/music player. But now I can’t justify a win7 phone, which i do want, until they have a 64GB one since i have a working 32GB smartphone already. I have definitely pushed a few people toward the win7 phones based on them wanting the best music player/smartphone combo device if they don’t need more than 32GB.

            I’ll also agree with your point that Apple is successfully selling a poor product, in itunes. But I would argue the point that they have a very desirable platform as a whole which is one of those more than the sum of it’s parts kind of things. That’s why they are maintaining their monopoly and they’ll keep maintaining it until a competitor has an entire package that can rival Apple’s.

            I think if MS can get app developers firmly on the Win7 Phone bandwagon, they’ll have a decent chance. The interface is appealing once people try it and the music player part, including the desktop app, are way better than Apple. They just need all the social apps and games.

            I don’t think anybody else has a chance to displace apple, or even knock a decent chunk off their share, as everybody else is in the jack of all trades, master of none boat. Or they’re really good at one thing that not enough people care about.

            • Corrado
            • 9 years ago

            iTunes does NOT have a monopoly. You can use their aac files on any device that uses aac files. You can use MP3 files from any place on an iPod. How is that a monopoly? Having a dejure monopoly is not illegal. There are other options. Using your monopoly to push out other competitors is whats illegal. I can buy a Zune or a Sansa or a Creative player or a Walkman and use them just the same as I can an iPod.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            I would say they certainly do have a monopoly in the mp3 market. New numbers suggest 80% of the NA mp3 market. that’s a monopoly imo. saying sansa and apple are in the same league is nuts. they’re 2 completely different creatures. and we do lose.

            • Corrado
            • 9 years ago

            And reread what I wrote. Having a defacto monopoly is not illegal, which means that people buy it because they want to, not because there are no other choices. If you goto WalMart or Target theres LOTS of DAPs. Most people buy an iPod because its what they want.

            I did mis-speak and say dejure monopoly in my previous post. I meant defacto.

            The only thing thats illegal about a monopoly is using said monopoly to lock out competitors. Seeing as you can use any songs you want on an iPod and anything you buy from iTunes on any other device that supports AAC files, theres no competitor lock out.

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 9 years ago

            He didn’t say it was illegal. He said it sucks.

            He’s right. The end.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            lol. yah, a lot of stuff isn’t illegal, it still sucks though 😉

          • Corrado
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah, if the market was supposed to give you the BEST, we’d all be driving Ferraris and Porsches and Bugattis. We don’t. The market provides the best at the cost the consumer is willing to pay.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            isn’t the idea that we’re all going to get there? an ever growing economy, marching on towards wealth for all? it’s a lie. infinite growth requires infinite resources.

            • Anomymous Gerbil
            • 9 years ago

            I suspect even you realise how ludicrous that “argument” is; it’s a strawman that needs to be set on fire.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            f taht it is. it’s not a strawman at all. set nothing on fire. you’re wrong.

            To anyone who has any brain, it’s obvious that this whole system is broken. I think a man as smart as you knows that as well.

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            Given that my boiler blew up Thursday, that I’m still waiting to get it fixed/replaced as I speak and that snow is freaking piling up outside the window I would be glad if you guys could a) set /[

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            dude, that sucks… sorry to hear that. best of luck getting it sorted! i know the feeling of “you’re in trouble” for something that has nothing to do with you.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            where you at?

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            Thanks man, will hopefully get sorted tomorrow, touching wood!
            I’m in London, GB, and we’re in a middle of snow patch which is quite rare down here, my luck I guess 🙂

        • cynan
        • 9 years ago

        Yet that was one of its key founding ideals. But then the implementation of an idea rarely lives up to its theoretical potential.

        Something to do with that darn ‘ol human nature (ie, greed) always getting in the way and messing things up.

        /[

          • sweatshopking
          • 9 years ago

          excellent post. you get a cookie from me. we’re of the same mind. You win:
          1 clan invite

            • cynan
            • 9 years ago

            lol. Thanks. But the only thing I should win is the award for the most pedantic and off-topic post edit.

            • Ragnar Dan
            • 9 years ago

            I expect you’ll have to mature and become more honest with yourselves before you can understand what your intellectual ancestors did to create the mess they’re blaming on their victims. They’ve been doing the same thing over and over again for more than 130 years in the U.S., and eventually either the people will rid themselves of the problem peacefully, or a very short, but very violent civil war will erupt.

            The violent always blame their victims though. And the father of collectivism smiles.

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      I disagree. The world actually revolves around /[

        • Ragnar Dan
        • 9 years ago

        No, no, _[

          • sweatshopking
          • 9 years ago

          i’m not sure if you’re arguing in favor of anything, or just being silly.

      • Anomymous Gerbil
      • 9 years ago

      It appears you don’t have a good understanding of economics/markets/etc.

      Devices like the iPod and its competitors which are extremely effective at what they do, are amazing cheap, and are used by zillions and imitated widely, are not examples of market failure.

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