Ask LH: What Can I Do When Amazon Won’t Sell Me Digital Music?

Ask LH: What Can I Do When Amazon Won’t Sell Me Digital Music?

Hi! There’s an album I’d like to buy online, but I don’t want the physical CD. It’s so much more expensive, plus I don’t keep CDs in my house – everything’s digital or vinyl. The problem is that this particular only available on amazon, and when I try to buy digitally it says they can’t sell the digital album in Australia. Is there any way around this, or at least a good reason why? Thanks, Determined To Be Disc-Free

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This is arguably the one area where the shift from physical to digital music has made life less convenient for consumers. Back when buying music meant buying a circular object of some description, a determined fan could always hunt down an obscure release from overseas. In the digital era, it’s all too common to experience what you’re experiencing: a digital release that’s effectively blocked from purchase in Australia.

In this case, Amazon hasn’t as yet launched digital music sales in Australia, because it hasn’t negotiated digital rights deals with all the relevant labels. Many labels still only have rights for performers in a specific territory, and object if someone else tries to sell music on their turf. This is a nonsensical world view in the digital era, but the hassle persists.

These delays aren’t uncommon, unfortunately; Google only began selling music in Australia in April this year, almost 18 months after it launched in the US. There’s no clear indication of when Amazon might also make the switch, though the fact that it finally started offering apps this year in Australia suggests it does have an interest in markets beyond North America.

Potentially, you can work around the block by setting up a new Amazon account and using a prepaid credit card with a (fake) US address to do so. That’s a lot of hassle, however, especially if you’re not regularly going to be purchasing that way, and it doesn’t always work (Amazon is sometimes fussy about payment methods).

Under the circumstances, I’d bite the bullet, purchase the CD and rip it into MP3 format. If you really don’t want it cluttering your house, you can throw it away afterwards. It’s legal to rip your CDs in Australia; you’re supposed to retain the original material, but I rather doubt the cops are going to bust you if you dispose of it. You’re on rather more slippery ethical ground if you try to resell it, though again this is unlikely to see you prosecuted.

In 30 years, it’s likely that we won’t have regional deals for distributing music, and this is much less likely to be an issue. However, while we’re transitioning business models, this kind of consumer hassle is a fact of life.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • It’s so much more expensive, plus I don’t keep CDs in my house – everything’s digital or vinyl.

    Found the hipster!

    But seriously, buying vinyl is WAY more expensive than CD’s and for the most part CD’s are marginally more than the digital copy if at all.

    For example I pre-ordered Fortress by Alter Bridge from JB HiFi, $17 comes with bonus guitar pick necklace. The digital copy on iTunes is also $17.. Usually I pay 17-20 dollars for a CD from JB HiFi whilst the digital copy is around $17 on iTunes. I’m not sure why you’d want to sacrifice quality for a few dollars =/ Unless you’re buying lossless copies then I think you’re being ripped off.

    Alternatively you could buy it, rip it and flog it on eBay or to a friend at a discounted rate..

    • I sent the question in and I buy vinyl for like a dollar or two at second hand shops generally. The most I’ve ever spent on a record is $20, which isn’t that much more expensive than a cd.

      • Ah totally fair 🙂

        You’d be nuts to buy brand new vinyl imo. I was looking at Maiden England ’88 by Iron Maiden at JB, sure it was a picture disk but upwards of 60 bucks, no thank you.

        Are Amazon gift cards something that would let you purchase from their digital store? A free VPN may also help get around this.

        • I buy new albums on vinyl mostly – and it’s uncommon for them to be that expensive! New releases tend to range between 20-35. Most of the time I’ll pay $30. So yep – a premium – but they hold their value better than a CD, which I believe is almost instantly worthless.

          • Well that’s lame, my local JB doesn’t sell any vinyl for cheap. I’ve seen others selling it as cheap as new CD’s it’s a bit strange.

            Depends how you see value though. Terms of resale value, sure vinyl can have a pretty good resale value, where on the other hand CD’s are to me still the optimal format for music, given I still play CD’s rather often through my set up.

          • Yup. Don’t buy vinyl from JB.

            Resale value is exactly what I mean – personal value is obviously subjective!

  • Hi, this can be done with a little bit less hassle than the OP. Set up an Amazon account as you normally would, buy and send your self a gift card, use that to buy music and presto!! You can download it straight onto your desktop. If Amazon gives you trouble when downloading, use Hola to make it think your in the US.

  • Had this happen recently, with an album that was digital release only. Was only in the US ITunes store or on Amazon but blocked to Australia. I don’t normally pirate music, I have made a decision to purchase it, but in this instance I ended up sourcing it elsewhere ;)… Until such time where I will be able to purchase it

  • If you buy Vinyl and it’s a new release check to see if it comes with a digital copy too.
    A lot of new Vinyls (mostly the expensive ones, $25+) come with digital download codes which is pretty handy.

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