In Brief: Bought Vinyl Records? Amazon Has You Covered

Vinyl record.

I really wished I had purchased my vinyl from Amazon, because today, Amazon expanded its AutoRip service to vinyl records purchased since 1998.

AutoRip automatically adds MP3 versions of songs to your Amazon Cloud Player Account. When Amazon released the AutoRip service, they backdated any eligible CDs purchased from Amazon, and they have now extended this to Vinyl Records…interestingly tempting, but a marginal improvement.

Amazon MP3 Drops Linux Support, Adds DRM-Lite

DRM Is Killing Music

As we’ve previously mentioned, we’ve been redoing our music collection. Now, after weeks of part-time ripping, and some cleanup, it is time to upload the music to various sites, as a test.

Amazon has discontinued its music downloader for Linux and is no longer allowing Linux users to download the .azw file for use with a third-party application. The AZW files are used to download an entire album when purchased.

This occurred concurrently with the rollout of their new Cloud Player product, which included one other fun feature. DRM. Not on the file level. Amazon proudly sells DRM-free MP3s, but to upload or download albums, you need to authorize your device. You are allowed a maximum of 10 devices, you can deauthorize a device and the slot will reopen thirty days later. This includes Android devices. If you don’t do this, you can only download albums one track at a time.

We wanted to see who else was pointing out that this is a DRM-like feature, and came up with an interesting analysis of same by The Leisurely Historian. His theories are: (Comments are ours)

  • Compromise negotiated with music labels over cloud player – This seems the most likely. But, is increased monitoring of download/uploads really an unreasonable restriction? We made a complete backup of all of our Amazon purchases locally and we can copy it anywhere(even back to Amazon Cloud Drive, ironically.
  • Back door to DRM – We agree that DRM on Kindle and Video has been good to Amazon. But they can’t reverse course on music. So, they’ve created this hybrid model to support keeping people in their ecosystem.
  • This is all about User Tracking – This is quite possible. We have the tab…”You listened to ___, people who listened to ___ also bought ____.” This is the classic Amazon upsell method of getting you to buy more, based on offering you things they think you will like.
Basically, Amazon wants people to use Cloud Player and the Cloud Player apps. This keeps people inside their garden. So, bad enough we are forced to boot up Windows, which we never use, to retrieve/upload our music…but there is no indication from Amazon that they plan to restore Linux support in the future.
Even if they do not want to write Linux apps, they could provide developers with an API to build support into their products, but third-party support is not what they want on any platform.
Just to be fair, the web player does work on Linux. And, while we gave them $25 for a year of service, it does not mean we will next year…although it would cost more to store the same amount as data on Amazon S3(although there is always Glacier). It is just disappointing.

Ripping Music Revisited

Bundle of CDs.

Amazon MP3 Tech Support is useless. Of course, as friendly as Amazon is, they have been consistent useless to us. From insisting our package would be delivered when UPS insisted it had been delayed to the latest, asking us to email log files repeatedly to an address that sent back it did not accept incoming emails…and it was apparently correct as we’re still waiting.

At the beginning of the month, we wrote about Amazon upgrading Cloud Player. It prompted us to break out our music collection and try uploading it. Now, we’ve gone back and forth about cloud based music, having tried the now defunct mp3tunes, Moozone, Google Music, and Amazon Cloud Player.

We’ve also bought a lot of DRM-free MP3 files from Amazon during sales. Amazon is great at sales.

So, it made sense to give Amazon a shot, as they’ll store anything you buy from them for free. Their new model is $25 a year for more song space than we can use, and a good amount of general file storage. If only they had full Linux support and/or an API. But we hope this will come soon, at least for the Cloud Drive.

So, we uploaded the entire collection overnight. However, it was several messed up in the metadata department. We spoke to Amazon, and they did not offer any suggestions. We’d had similar problems with Moozone and with Google Music.

Deciding the problem was likely with the decisions made during the initial ripping, we made the decision to rerip the entire collection. Armed with an old laptop and an external hard drive, we’ve been slowly making our way through the collection.

One of the issues came from the decision to originally rip into the Ogg Vorbis format. Now, this was a freedom based decision. We wanted to support open standards, and still do. But, the limitations of this have come to bite us many times. Most notably that Moozone is the only cloud storage that offers decent Ogg support without transcoding, and Moozone appears to be dead in terms of development.

That alone wouldn’t have caused us to go back and destroy all the old files. We’re not audiophile enough to try 320kbps or FLAC, but the original files did show some encoding glitches, and we will be encoding at 256kbps MP3 as opposed to the originally quality of roughly 192kbps, but the big issue was metadata. Our metadata was in horrible shape, and made it impossible to find things.

The hardest type of album to deal with, of which we have many, are ones with multiple artists. ID3 tags initially did not have support. The Album Artist tag came later. In fact, up until more recently, our audio file tagging program on Linux, Easytag, didn’t support the Album Artist tag. It now does, which is most helpful. The other helpful tool was the free MusicBrainz Picard, available for multiple platforms, which encodes files with metadata from the MusicBrainz database.

Even with this, being the musical mavericks we are, there are plenty of CDs we have that have nonexistent or incomplete entries in these databases, that we’ll be going through manually. Also, this has inspired us to fill some gaps in the collection. Some of the files were encoded from audio cassettes, and we’ve been using Amazon Marketplace to purchase selected used CDs of said content for cheap, allowing high quality copies to be made.

It may be time to finally throw away the tapes., however, and go completely digital. As we migrate further from analog media, it is odd we have no intention of chucking the vinyl. What makes vinyl so nostalgic and tapes..not?

So, the above chronicles the journey from freedom loving Ogg user in search of a cloud to freedom-hating individual seeking to be locked into one platform…or not. The truth is, no matter what, we’re committed to a local copy. Cloud services are wonderful for keeping a backup copy, and pulling music on the go when you have a hankering for something from your collection, but trusting any service 100% is foolish, and we all need to be more diligent about that.

Our ripping is being done with Linux based tools. Audex is currently handling the ripping, Easytag the tag editing, and Picard filling in extra metadata. Amazon is providing cover art and data for manual correction as needed from their vast library of pages. This is vastly different from last time. Although things have changed, and ripping music from CDs isn’t as popular as it once was in this digital age, would be curious to see what people think, which is the purpose for this post.

How do you build a perfect digital music collection, what tools(Linux-based preferably) do you use to build it, and what do you do with your collection?

For one, we’ve never created a single playlist. Playlists are the mix-tapes of the modern era. Perhaps it is time to find the mix tape we made in the 90s…Songs to Be Depressed By, and recreate it for the modern era. (Songs to Be Depressed By were actually uplifting songs)

Amazon Cloud Player Updates – Matches Competitors

Amazon MP3 LogoWe’ve had a long road in cloud music. Back in December of last year, we compared the limitations of Google Music to that of Amazon MP3. At the time, Google won. The Amazon web player was not feature filled, the Google Music interface won, for ability to enter metadata, among other things.

But that has changed. Amazon announced a new revamped cloud offering. The most significant innovation is one that iTunes already offers, and that Amazon will now as well. Amazon will scan music libraries and match the songs on their computers to their catalog. All matched songs – even music purchased elsewhere or ripped from CDs will be made instantly available in Cloud Player as 256 Kbps audio.

Cloud Player now allows editing of metadata inside the player, a feature Google has had for some time.

Amazon Cloud Player is expanding to the Roku Box.

And, unlike previously, music purchased prior to the announcement of Amazon Cloud Player will now be available in your box. This was always a pet peeve, as Amazon knew the music was purchased…you bought it from them.

The new Cloud Player offers two options.

  • Cloud Player Free – Store all music purchased from Amazon, plus 250 songs.
  • Cloud Player Premium – Store up to 250,000 songs for $25 a year.

Amazon Cloud Player is now separate from Amazon Cloud Drive. Drive will now be used exclusively for file storage. 5GB is offered free, and 20GB is available for $10 per year.

In both cases, this is a compelling offer. However, there are some things missing. No Linux client for the desktop apps for either Drive or Player. No API for third-party development, which we’ve mentioned before.

How does this compare to Google Music? Google Music, since we last visited it, sells music itself…offers limited download functionality, and still has several limitations. Amazon is looking a lot more compelling.

Amazon Reveals Cloud Music – Google Next?

Amazon MP3 app on Droid
Image by scattered sunshine via Flickr

Amazon announced Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player, a digital storage and music locker service. The first 5GB are free, 20GB is $20 a year(first year is free with the purchase of an album), 50GB is $50, etc.

The service will allow storage of any sort of file, but Amazon Cloud Player, which is available in the Amazon MP3 Android App and as a web-based player, only recognizes MP3 and AAC files. So no FLAC, OGG, etc. Shame, we like OGG.

Going forward, if you buy an album from Amazon MP3, it will be transferred directly to your cloud drive and does not count toward your storage allowance. Unfortunately, it will not import your previous purchases, so you will have to upload them. The MP3 uploader doesn’t support Linux, and there is no uploader on the Android app. Hopefully, Amazon or a third-party will rectify this, but we don’t see an API for third-party developers to build on yet either.

We’re curious to see what Google’s offering is for music. But this is perfect for Amazon MP3 purchases going forward. They are already storing the files anyway, so linking them into your account doesn’t cost them any space, which is why we’re surprised they won’t do it for already purchased files, considering they’ll have to store duplicates now.

It won’t beat Amazon S3 on functionality, but it does beat them on price. If they open it up to third-party app development and support additional formats, we’d put our media there, how about you?