Amazon’s New Deal: Buy a CD and Get the Digital Album for Free

Today, there are only a couple of ways in which Amazon’s e-commerce and digital businesses overlap.

cracked discOne of the biggest examples is Amazon Prime, which ties two-day shipping with digital perks like access to free streaming video. A more obscure example is how Amazon enables mobile games to bundle the sale of physical toys with virtual goods.

Now an even more obvious use case exists: Amazon is announcing AutoRip, a new service that will give anyone who has ever purchased a CD on Amazon a free digital copy of that album.

It also applies to all purchases going forward.

This isn’t exactly a huge leap forward for technology, but the service is pretty neat, and will be especially handy for anyone who never bothered to rip their CDs (as long as they bought their music from Amazon).

The songs will automatically appear in Amazon’s Cloud Player, and be immediately available for either playback or download from a PC or a mobile device. If a consumer has never accessed his or her account before, the music will be there as soon as they do.

“This is uniquely Amazon,” said Steve Boom, Amazon’s VP of digital music. “No one else who sells physical and digital music can provide this.”

Of course, there are some limitations — the digital-matching program is only available for 50,000 albums. And, only in the U.S.

Amazon has agreements with the three major record labels and a bunch of independents, but that doesn’t mean they have rights to every title. Examples of songs available include: “21” by Adele; new releases like “¡Uno!”, “¡Dos!” and “¡Tre!” by Green Day, “Overexposed” by Maroon 5 and “The Truth About Love” by P!nk. There are classics, as well, like “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.

Boom would not say what percentage of the company’s catalog that represents, but said that Amazon focused heavily on securing rights for the most popular titles first. The company will add more titles over time, including new releases as they come out.

Boom said the record labels “are excited about this,” and “see it as a huge customer benefit since customers have the right to rip their CDs.”

Obviously, AutoRip could spur sales from consumers who now see buying a CD as a two-for-one deal, since the digital copies are free. For labels, this is beneficial because it means selling full albums again instead of a la carte tracks.

“A lot of people still like physical music — in fact, it represents 50 percent of the industry’s revenue,” Boom said. “There are people who like to collect, or they like the fidelity, or they like to put it in their car. I do think this will increase CD sales.”

Amazon will also benefit because it raises the awareness of its music locker, which is in a three-horse race with Google and Apple. “Tens of millions of people who bought CDs will be notified that they have free music waiting for them in the cloud,” Boom said. “We think that it will increase its awareness, for sure.”

However, Amazon isn’t doing this for a lift in sales. “We want to make buying music from Amazon a complete experience. It’s up to you if you want pure digital music. If you do, that’s fine, but if you want to have a CD, we want it to also be instantly accessible on your mobile devices, too.”

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