Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Amazon Music Store in 2007?

Paul Lamere of Sun Labs, the principal investigator for "Search Inside the Music" has an interesting post with his thoughts about the rumors that Amazon may launch a music store shortly. Admittedly, this rumor has been around for a while, but Paul makes a very strong case for why it could be very significant--especially if the music isn't DRM-ed (as seems to be the current speculation).

Of course, much would depend on how many tracks Amazon could get access too; for example, eMusic doesn't have DRM but it's also lacking many of the big music hits--which still represent a lot of volume, Long Tail notwithstanding. However, that aside, Paul makes a good case for how Amazon's "focus on discovery" and metadata-oriented Web services could give them some real advantage. And he's absolutely right. As I've discussed before, rich--and automatically captured--metadata is an absolutely key ingredient filtering and ordering digital data, including music. (Amazon also has the social component down with user ratings, which could further enhance the value of digital albums and tracks.)

Amazon has a great set of web services built around their data. Using Amazon's web services, one can get access to book descriptions, book cover images, reviews, pricing information - just about any piece of data in Amazon's database is exposed via their web services. Exposing their data in this fashion places Amazon at the center of the online literary ecosystem. Any startup company that wants to be in a business related to books will use Amazon's API because it is easy, the data is of high quality and it is free. This is good for the startup, and even better for Amazon since all of those startups end up sending their customers to Amazon. Amazon is already a big part of the music ecosystem. They already have lots of data for music CDs that is available via their web APIs. They are probably the largest supplier of album art on the web. The Amazon part number - the ASIN - is used throughout the web as an unambiguous identifier for an album. Once Amazon starts to sell individual tracks, I would expect that Amazon will create an ASIN or an equivalent for each track in their database. This track-level identifier may become the primary way of identifying tracks in the music world since Amazon makes it so easy to get all of the information about an item once you have the ASIN. This could be a key enabler in the next generation of music - a ubiquitous song ID tied to deep metadata.

Paul concludes that "in 2007 we may see the tipping point for digital music and Amazon may be at the center of it all."

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