The Amazon MP3 store which launched only last September (and even that was only the beta launch) is on a bit of a tear. USA Today reports that it is now only second to iTunes in terms of digital music sales. What is not so clear is just how much of a lead iTunes may have as Amazon did not disclose specific sales numbers.
Part of Amazon MP3’s success can be attributed to the fact that it sells songs in MP3 format without any copy protection. Apple iTunes songs come in the AAC format and much of the catalog still comes with DRM. In terms of numbers, Amazon MP3 offers some 4.5 million songs in DRM-free format compared to only 2 million (from a 6 million song catalog) for Apple. Amazon MP3 also has broader music label support with EMI, Warner, Sony/BMG and Universal on board whereas iTunes only has support from EMI and from EMI and some independent labels.
Overall, digital music sales are continuing to grow. According to Nielsen SoundScan, some 239 million digital tracks have been sold so far this year compared to 189 million for the same period last year. Meanwhile CD sales continue to drop (74.3 million this year compared to 89.2 million last year).