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hacked by cyber_hunter » Blog Archive » Amie Street and SellaBand reviews

Amie Street and SellaBand reviews


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The last few days I’ve been checking out a pair of online music stores that specialize in indie music, Amie Street and SellaBand. Both offer music as DRM-free MP3s, and SellaBand also offers CDs.

Amie Street

I’ve spent the most time with Amie Street. It offers a sizable amount of music from various independent labels as digital downloads. Finding a particular artist is easy enough, assuming it’s there. If you’re looking for new music, you have three options. First is to browse the various Top 20 lists on the site’s homepage. Next, you can do a general search by genre. Finally, and most interestingly, the artists on the site are tagged with the names of artists they sound similar to, so you can search by known artists as well. For example, while the site doesn’t have anything by Lacuna Coil, a search for them led me to Nemesea, which I’d never heard of before but decided I liked after listening to the previews. (I ultimately downloaded their album from SellaBand, but more on that in a bit) Song previews on Amie Street are very long, from one to two minutes in length, giving you plenty of time to decide if you like the song or not.

Amie Street uses a unique pricing structure. Newly-added songs start out being free, and gradually go up in price depending on how popular they become, with a maximum price of 98 cents. From what I’ve seen, album prices are merely the sum of the prices of the individual songs. This makes it very convenient to buy one or two songs from an album and then go back to buy the rest at a later time. Buying multiple individual songs from an album is very easy, as each song has a check box. Check off the ones you want, and there’s an action in a popup menu near the top of the page to buy all selected songs. For reasons unknown, Amie Street requires you to buy credit ahead of time using a credit card or Paypal. Easy enough to do, but an unnecessary extra step. Credit is available in several amounts to fit any budget. Buying credit also buys you some recommendations (or RECs) that you can then give out to any song you’ve purchased from the site. If the song subsequently goes up in popularity (and price), you can “cash in” and get back as store credit at least half the difference between the price you purchased it at and the price it is when you cash in. So far I haven’t made any use of the REC system.

Bitrates on Amie Street vary. According to the site’s FAQ, they strive to make as much of their music as possible available in 256kbps VBR, but as many artists submit their music to the site directly, bitrates are all over the place; the handful of songs I bought range from 128kbps to 320kbps. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t list what bitrate any particular song is encoded with - you have to buy the song and download it to find out. For that reason, if high bitrates are important to you (they are to me), I recommend buying one song from an album first to check the bitrate, then buying the rest of the album. (That’s what happened regarding the Nemesea album I found. I bought the first song from Amie Street, discovered it was only 128kbps, then went looking for a site that had the album at a higher bitrate.)

Amie Street keeps track of which songs you’ve purchased on a page called My Library. Unlike Amazon.com or iTunes, this lets you re-download songs without paying for them again in the event your hard drive crashes. (There are, of course, other things you can do with this feature, but I won’t mention those) All in all, Amie Street is a pretty good site for buying indie music from.

SellaBand

SellaBand is more oriented towards getting new artists published than actually selling music. The biggest feature is that you can buy what amounts to a share in an artist. Each artist’s page has a few songs (demos, presumably) that can be streamed (but not downloaded), so you can decide if they’re worth buying into. Once 5000 shares have been sold, the site then pays to have the artist go to a studio and record an album. Besides regular editions of the album, which is sold both in CD format and 256kbps MP3, 5000 limited edition CDs are also made for the band’s shareholders (SellaBand calls them (Believers”). Believers receive the limited edition CDs for free, and can sell extra copies (if they purchased multiple shares in a band) on the site.

As mentioned before, songs can be purchased either on CD or as 256kbps MP3s. Regular CDs are $10, limited edition CDs are $15, and MP3s are 50 cents (some are also available for free). Like Amie Street, SellaBand accepts both credit cards and Paypal, however you don’t have to pre-purchase credit (although that’s an option).

The main problem with SellaBand is that currently only four bands are selling albums on the site, so it’s not a very good resource for finding new music (at least if you want to buy it immediately).

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