December 15, 2013

CD's Can be Cheaper than MP3s on Amazon

Recently Moneybox pointed out how a Neil Young Live At The Cellar Door CD on Amazon is cheaper than the MP3 album.  The CD is $9.99 and the MP3 version is $12.49.

I ran into this phenomenon a while ago.  I was looking to buy a MP3 album on Amazon and I noticed the price for the physical CD was actually cheaper than the MP3's.   But the kicker is that when you buy a CD at amazon they have an 'auto-rip' feature that also gives you a free MP3 copy of the tracks as well.   So the CD + MP3's is cheaper than just MP3's.   That of course makes no logical sense at all... but you can find many examples.

Here are a few albums I found where the CD + autorip MP3 is cheaper than just MP3s :

CD MP3 difference
Live At The Cellar Door $9.99 $12.49 ($2.50)
Duck the Halls: a Robertson Family Christmas $6.96 $11.49 ($4.53)
Recharged $10.30 $11.49 ($1.19)
Based On A True Story... $6.96 $9.49 ($2.53)
The Truth About Love $6.49 $10.99 ($4.50)

(that is not a representation of my own musical tastes, just so you know)

We can see there that there can be a pretty steep difference in prices.  Couple of those are $4.50 more for the straight digital MP3s versus the CD + auto-rip MP3s.  

But this is really more thee exception to the rule and usually the MP3 version of an album is cheaper than the physical CD.  

Why would Amazon do this?   My guess is that this is a combination of things.   First of all I assume they sometimes put CD's on sale as a promotion or to move product out of inventory.   I assume thats why the CD is cheaper in general, the CD price has been discounted for some reason.   But the CD and MP3 prices don't seem to move in lock step for whatever reason.   I'm guessing it is because the two products are generally treated differently and sold to two different audiences more or less.   Also if the CD is on sale to move inventory they don't have to worry about moving MP3 product out of inventory on the other hand so there isn't a reason to put the MP3 on sale in that situation.    I don't know but its also possible that when they sell MP3s they have license agreements with the record producers that are different than the agreements for selling CDs.  I don't know really this is all just speculation on my part but I'm assuming theres logical reason behind it that doesn't include Amazon trying to push you to buy a CD which they then have to pay UPS to deliver to your door.

Anyway, if you're buying music on a site like Amazon make sure to check and see how the CD price compares to the MP3 price.   If the CD is cheaper and has the free auto-rip MP3s then theres really no reason to pay more for just MP3s.

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