BM Vs. iTMS: Is Anyone Home at

by , 10:00 AM EDT, July 23rd, 2003

Competition breeds a better product. Look at the battle for the best MP3 player, and how far the iPod is pushing its competitors. Unfortunately, when (BM) decided to toss their hat into the online music distribution game, they threw their heads in as well.

We want to give BM a fair shake. They are filling the gap for PC users who want to "purchase" music online, while Apple prepares the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) for non-Mac users. The services are, on the surface, similar. BM has "borrowed" ideas for organizational design down to the shape of the "download" button and the sidebars with the current most popular songs and artists. As it usually is when companies copy Apple, the similarities are superficial.

The first thing we noticed was that the search function at BM doesn't work. We find it interesting that with a catalogue of 300,000 songs, BM wouldn't have a functioning search engine upon launch. It was difficult to find artists to make price and availability comparisons with iTMS without a search tool. We finally decided to use many of their front page links and use the search function in iTMS instead.

The broken search engine in action
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BM's singles downloads begin at 79¢, but we found it difficult to find any. There were some that were priced at 89¢, though even at that rate there aren't as many as you might hope based on BM's marketing message. Some of Cher's songs are available at that price, which might be why somehow she has the top album in the Top 100 Pop/Rock category. The artists that are more popular, such as Justin Timberlake, Nelly, 50 Cent, Eminem, and Coldplay are priced at 99¢ for a single. This is the same price as the iTMS.

However, if the singles are the same price, why are the EPs and singles with b-sides priced so strangely? American Idol's Clay Aiken has a two-song EP for sale on both BM and the iTMS. Both retailers are selling each song individually for 99¢. The iTMS has both songs together for US$1.98, the price of the two singles added together in one simple "add album" button. It's the BM page that is confusing. Both singles are 99¢, but to buy them simultaneously will cost you $9.49. What?

Clay Aiken's 2 song EP on BM, a mere $9.49
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The same EP on iTMS, $1.98
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The strange pricing goes on. Mya's "My Love is Like...Wo" single has two songs on it. iTMS has it for $1.98, sells the physical CD for $3.99, and BM comes in at $9.99.

Mya's 2 song single on BM, a mere $9.99
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The same single on iTMS, $1.98
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Are you confused yet?

Avril Lavigne's live EP, "Try To Shut Me Up," is one of the top albums on the iTMS. The five songs are 99¢ each, or $4.95 for the entire EP. BM also sells the singles for 99¢, but prices the whole EP at $9.49.

Avril Lavigne's 5 song EP on BM, a mere $9.95
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The same EP on iTMS, $4.95
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Is anyone home at Is the amazing DRM dance they are doing distracting them from common sense pricing? Could this be why, upon clicking the Company Info link at the bottom of the homepage, we see no text? [Editor's Note: Since our story was published, the Company Info page at BM's site has been fixed.]

Of course we were able to find albums and songs that are cheaper on BM than the iTMS. As demonstrated, however, the opposite seems to be more prevalent. We would have checked many offerings, but found it difficult to compare artists without BM's search feature. According to the New York Times, founder Scott Blum wanted to get his service up and running before the competition. Regarding yesterday's launch, "Mr. Blum said he expected to have "about a 90-day" head start on that competition." It appears that in many ways, his head start is for naught. He's put the cart before the horse, and the wheels are already falling off.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We truly hope for more online music services to both compete with the iTMS and promote online distribution methods. The rush to hurl online has left gaping holes in their execution. The Swiss cheese of their DRM and EULA not withstanding, the future of BM should be interesting.