Snooping Around Amazon's MP3 Store

Snooping Around Amazon's MP3 Store

If you haven’t already heard, Amazon has opened it’s MP3 download store. It’s beta but it’s open to the public, so for all intents and purposes, it’s live.

Gruber has a mini-review of the store and other sites (read: almost all) have articles discussing the pros and cons including an odd one from TechDirt where Mike Masnick seems to imply that Amazon has some control over how to price the songs. I believe if Amazon had any real control over the pricing issue, we’d be seeing songs far cheaper than $0.89, however the music labels refuse to allow it and price their songs to Amazon in such a way that Amazon can’t price much lower. Amazon has to make a profit on this endeavor, so they’ve got to have a certain mark-up. Apple, by contrast, doesn’t care whether their iTunes Music Store (iTMS) makes a profit because, from Apple’s point-of-view, iTMS is merely a way to sell hardware (iPods, iPhones, etc.). Amazon has no hardware to sell, so they’re definitely interested in profitability. $0.89 is probably the lowest they could go and still make money.

Anyway, I decided to browse the Amazon store and see what I could find. One thing that immediately jumped out at me, right there on the front page, was a link which read We have MP3 Downloads Recommendations for you. Hello, Houston. We have lift-off. About a year or so ago, iTMS had a beta feature where they would offer recommendations based on your previous purchases. I absolutely loved this feature. I found and purchased many artists based on these recommendations. It was a real bummer when they removed it. (At least I think they removed it. I haven’t been able to find it for quite a while now.) Needless to say, seeing the recommendations feature on Amazon’s site really made my day.

And the recommendations aren’t bad, either. Following the link took me to a page of 15 albums from 13 different bands. Below each album is an explanation of why the recommendation was made. For example, they recommended Ace Frehley’s Greatest Hits Live because I purchased the book The Kiss Album Focus, Vol. 2: Hell or High Water, 1983-96. They recommended Kim Richey’s Chinese Boxes because I added Raul Malo’s After Hours to my wish list. The 69 Eyes’ Angels was recommended because, some time back, I purchased some fingerless black gloves. Generation X is on the list because I purchased Adam and The Ants’ Dirk Wears White Sox.

That is too cool. The recommendations aren’t based on only previous music purchases, but also on books, clothing and items I’ve placed on my wish list. This might actually be a recommendation system that I can get behind. Oh, beside each explanation is a link labeled Fix this. Clicking on that link allows you to inform the system that you either already own the album or are not interested. You can also tell it not to use a particular item as the basis for future recommendations.

I’m still snooping around the store and haven’t yet purchased anything. However, I can almost guarantee that I’ll be making purchases in the future based solely on the strength of the recommendation engine. So far, it’s looking like a real winner.

Update: I’m seeing some oddities in the recommendations. One recommendation is marked as “Currently unavailable,” which seems weird. Why recommend an album that I can’t purchase? My guess is that it most likely will be available soon. Another recommendation, Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours, shows to be recommended because I purchased Bill Hicks’ Flying Saucer Tour. I have no idea what’s up with that.

Update 2: Almost every website is reporting that albums are priced between $4.99 and $9.99. However, I’m seeing albums priced at $12.99 and higher. This one is priced at $14.45. NB: There’s no way in hell that I’d pay $12.99 for a Poison album. But that’s just me.