Now here’s something the record labels never would have agreed to tens years ago. With the purchase of select CDs, Amazon customers will get a free MP3 copy of the album, which is instantly available in their Cloud Player account.
It’s a great idea. No longer will people who buy CDs from Amazon have to go through the trouble of ripping them onto a computer for the inevitable (and pretty much only) use case: listening to the music on a portable device. They’ll even retroactively rip your past purchases from as far back as 1998, assuming the CDs you bought previously are AutoRip-approved.
This is a pretty useful feature for people who buy CDs, but that’s a population that’s been quickly dwindling for some time. Personally, I ripped all of mine about ten years ago and got rid of them. The only time I’ve considered buying a new CD is the rare event that a favorite artist of mine puts out some super-deluxe, premium-packaged disc mixed in 2.1 surround sound or it’s bundled with a DVD. Like most people, most of the music I consume is from the Internet. For years, that meant digital downloads. Today, that’s supplemented by Spotify’s massive library. If I really love something, I’ll buy it on vinyl and cash in the free MP3 download right away.
And there are problems with the service itself. When I went to try AutoRip, my Cloud Player library was still completely empty. If I’ve purchased any CDs in the last 7 years, they apparently weren’t AutoRip-supported. Oh well.
Too Late To Help
While AutoRip is nice a bonus for CD buyers, it’s probably not going to reverse the inevitable trend: Physical album sales have been slashed in half since 2000 and as digital grows (it’s now more than 50% of the recorded music market), there’s no way those numbers are ever going to pick back up. Everyone’s streaming from Spotify and Rdio or redeeming their iTunes gift cards. Vinyl has been seeing a bit of a resurgence in recent years, but that’s still a niche market filled with audiophiles and super-fans.
Good riddance to the compact disc. At least with vinyl, you get a tangible, collectible good with a free download. With subscription services, you get access to unprecedented quantities of music, which you can access from any device. With CDs, all you get is a plastic disc that will inevitably start getting scratched as soon as you remove it from its breakable, poorly designed case. I moved on from CDs years ago. As convenient as AutoRip is, I’m not any more likely to return to a physical format. I can’t imagine anybody else is.
Now, if Amazon would come out with AutoRip for books, that’d be a whole other story.
Lead photo by Fanch the System.