Business & Management

Featured On Techdirt: Music Without Borders — How Amazon Can Go One-Up On iTunes

My article (reproduced below) on Amazon’s MP3 service was recently featured on Techdirt:

Recently, we mentioned that Amazon’s MP3 Download Store got the DRM-free part right but screwed up on the pricing model — the real Achilles heel of iTunes. As it turns out there’s another angle from which Amazon could go one-up on iTunes: extend the offering across more countries.

The moment I heard about the launch, I enthusiastically hit Amazon’s MP3 Download Store and eagerly clicked on a “Buy MP3” link only to be greeted with a “We are sorry… We could not process your order because of geographical restrictions on the product which you were attempting to purchase. Please refer to the terms of use for this product to determine the geographical restrictions. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

Wow! What’s that again? Geographical restrictions on music? Because I am a citizen of India and not a citizen of a country where the music labels think that DRM-free music should be made downloadable? That’s just dumb. Similarly, a long time ago, iTunes informed me that I don’t have a “foreign” credit card and hence it won’t let me download stuff although I am willing to pay for it.

There are more than a few ironies here:

  • The music that I am trying to purchase is readily available DRM-free on CDs at a store nearby. So why place an embargo on the digital one?
  • I can order stuff from Amazon and have them international-couriered to India, but I can’t download a digital file off Amazon because I am in India.

Here’s my feedback to Amazon: If you really want to exploit the “long tail” and “short head” economics of online music and be anywhere close to a threat to iTunes, look at creating a world where music is not constrained by borders. You have the clout to do that.

Vinaya HS is an expert at the Techdirt Insight Community. To get insight and analysis from Vinaya HS and other experts on challenges your company faces, click here.

The comments that this article attracted were full of insight. I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

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