Amazon.com has managed to ink licenses from all of the Big Four record labels for its cloud-based music service. Amazon.com originally launched the service in March of 2011, without any licenses, and at the time, the site claimed it didn’t need any.
Amazon.com’s director of music, Craig Pape said:
“We don’t need a license to store music. The functionality is the same as an external hard drive.”
Not all that many were as sure as Amazon.com, but that is the route the service took. Now, it has licensing from all of the Big Four: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI, and Warner Music Group, according to a source.
There has been no confirmation from the record labels or Amazon.com, but the source said that new features for Amazon.com’s Cloud Player service would roll out sometime in July.
With the new licensing in place, Amazon.com could, if it wanted to, add Scan and Match functionality as a feature.
That feature is something Apple launched with its iCloud service last year. Rather than having to upload copies of all music files, iCloud users simply had their files scanned by iTunes. If a matching song was found in Apple’s library of music, when a user played that song back from the cloud, he or she did so using that copy, even if it was of better quality. If a file was not found in Apple’s library, it was uploaded.
iCloud services are free if the user is storing music purchased from iTunes, but it costs $25 annually to store music obtained elsewhere. Considering many began their music collections with CDs and then ripped them to their hard drives, one can assume that a decent percentage of most music collections isn’t from iTunes.
Meanwhile, when Amazon.com’s service launched, users had to upload their music, which could be quite a lengthy process – as well as consuming a large amount of bandwidth for those on a cap. Considering the expense of the licenses, Amazon.com may choose to come up with the same sort of system Apple did – free for Amazon MP3 purchases, paid for other music.
Apple would probably jump in with criticism were the opportunity offered, as with the vast majority of online music purchases going through iTunes, it could – if it wanted to be snarky – comment on how many more people will have to pay for Amazon.com’s cloud service. It’s possible, though, that Amazon.com will choose a different method to monetize its service, but either way, it is expected to launch both paid and free versions.
Google remains as the sole cloud-based music service among the Big Three without licenses. While the company remains in negotiations with music labels, there’s no indication as to when a settlement might be reached, and as the company has less experience dealing with the labels, it could be a long, long time.