November 3, 2006

Amarok adds built-in music store

Author: Nathan Willis

Free software and DRM-free music met this week when the Amarok music player added a built-in "iTunes-like" music store in its latest release -- making it the first open source music application to include such a service.

Version 1.4.4 of the KDE audio player integrates a front end to the Magnatune record label, through which users can preview songs and purchase DRM-free tracks and albums in MP3 format.

Magnatune offers free track downloads for all of its artists through its Web site, so -- strictly speaking -- the Amarok feature brings no new functionality, just convenience.

Apple's iTunes Store offers songs from multiple, major record labels, and thus far more artists and artists of wider popularity. Magnatune, however, offers a direct-to-artist royalty scheme that it would claim is more fair to performers, and its commitment to the standard MP3 format, with no digital rights management, is more fair to consumers. As to the relative merits of indie versus major label artists, there is no accounting for taste.

The Amarok development team says that the Magnatune deal was not a planned partnership. Nikolaj Hald Nielsen told the Amarok mailing list "Magnatune just made their entire catalogue available as an XML file on their site (which was what gave me the idea for this feature) and proved responsive to my request for an API to purchase music directly from within other programs."

For its part Magnatune is receptive to the possibility of working with other third-party application developers to bring its music to a wider audience. The site already publishes information about using Magnatune XML feeds, including demos and instructions for embedding a music mini-browser in Web sites and applications. Using the service to enable music purchases requires an API key, which must be requested and approved by Magnatune.

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