Lovers of analog music have been praising Amazon’s AutoRip service since its birth in January this year, which sees a free digital copy of customers’ CD purchases added straight into their Cloud Player account, making accessibility to digital copies of their ‘hard cover’ music a breeze.

Following the success of this clever program, Amazon recently announced that the AutoRip service will now extend to include vinyl purchases, taking the hassle out of creating digital copies of your favourite records.

Customers of Amazon music will now find all of their new purchases immediately downloaded into their Cloud Player accounts free of charge, meaning you buy the hard copy and get the MP3 for free! Gone is the hassle of transferring music to portable devices, and the fiddling mess of trying to make digital copies of physical vinyl records.

The songs that are added into Cloud Player accounts are available for streaming and downloading in high-quality 256 kbps MP3 form. There is the slight catch of course that the digital copy is limited to Amazon’s Cloud Player only, unlike some vinyl purchases that come with a download code, allowing the customer to download the MP3 to any music program.

The exclusive free copy provided by Amazon means that the free digital version is unable to be used in other programs such as iTunes, keeping these perks in the Amazon family. However, Amazon’s Cloud Player is accessible for most major mobile devices, tablets, and web browsers, making the limited accessibility of the free downloads a non-issue.

“We’re thrilled to extend this experience to vinyl records.” said Amazon’s Vice President of Digital Music Steve Boom in a statement about the AutoRip upgrade.

“Many of our music customers are vinyl fans and it’s traditionally been very difficult to make digital versions of vinyl records—now customers can enjoy the albums they buy wherever they are, not just when they have access to a record player.” “It’s a fun experience to suddenly find CDs you purchased just today—or 15 years ago—added automatically and free of charge to your digital library.” – Steve Boom, Amazon

Best of all, not only does Amazon provide Mp3s for new music purchases, but if customers have purchased records at any time since Amazon’s music store opened in 1998, then these albums will also find their way into your Cloud Player accounts free of charge. This brilliant concept sees your entire music purchase history accessible for portable music devices.

“AutoRip has been wildly popular with customers since it launched earlier this year,” said Steve Boom. “It’s a fun experience to suddenly find CDs you purchased just today—or 15 years ago—added automatically and free of charge to your digital library. We’re thrilled to extend this experience to vinyl records.”

Audiophiles who appreciate the at-home experience of playing records with crisp sound quality that (arguably) cannot be matched to their digital competitors may grumble about the Mp3 and CD audio quality, but analog music enthusiasts still have to deal with the issue of portability. The AutoRip program is such a success because it gives customers the delight of owning the audio quality of their beloved vinyl, with the added bonus of on-the-go accessibility as an option.

Extending the program to vinyl music does have one catch, as Wired reports, exclusive vinyl tracks may not be accessible unless the record companies themselves make the tracks available to Amazon customers. For example, the annual Record Store Day, which sees hundreds of exclusive vinyl tracks released, won’t be available as a digital download with the physical purpose, as it may defeat the purpose the physical copy’s collectability to begin with.

Regardless, thousands of titles, from every major music label are available for AutoRip with more tracks being added all the time as the program grows and develops. Amazon’s CloudPlayer program is essentially an expansion of music streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, and Rdio, and the AutoRip extension of vinyl certainly puts them in good stead for launching their proposed subscription based music service.

As previously reported, industry sources indicate that the online retailer has begun talks with “various music companies” about digital rights and licensing in starting its own on-demand music service, in a similar subscription model to market leaders Spotify and Deezer, either as an extension of its current mp3 and CloudPlayer services, or as separate but complimentary program.

A move from Amazon into what is already a very competitive and crowded market demonstrates that despite the ongoing growth of traditional digital music sales models – such as Amazon mp3 and iTunes as demonstrated in IFPI’s Digital Music Report – many are moving towards the new horizons of music streaming.

Meanwhile, the recent annual report from the RIAA demonstrates a moderate decline in CD and DVD sales, from $3.4 billion in 2011 to $2.8 billion in 2012, a drop of 16.5%, but vinyl continues to be the dogged bastion of the physical format, following the general trend that its experiencing a revival with a growth in the US report to $163 million in 2012, up 36% from the previous year.

So while recent repots demonstrate that dwindling physical sales could spell the shrinking of ‘hard copy’ music, Amazon have found a way of putting analog purchases back on the radar for music streamers around the globe. Meaning that the death of the CD – and especially vinyl – may now be further away than we think.

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