Reuters is reporting that Amazon is the second largest seller of digital music, trafficking an astonishing 130 million digital tracks in 2008.
Of course, this pales in comparison with the biggest pushaman on the block, Apple, who sold 2.4 billion digital tracks through it's iTunes music store during the same period.
It's become sort of a raison d'être at The Shimmy Shake to promote digital music purchases over physical ones, but even moreso, DRM-free purchases as well. So I like Amazon over iTunes for those two reasons (also, it's weekly deals remind me a lot of Turtles and Coconuts and other brick and mortar stores). But almost every record label will sell you a DRM-free version of an artist's album (whether it be with the purchase of a physical CD or not).
But here's my defense of these numbers. Have you ever seen an Amazon mp3 ad? On a bus? In the subway? A little silhouette dancing with some earphones telling you to go to Amazon and get this album?
Essentially, after starting just under two years ago, Amazon has sold nearly 5 percent of the tracks that Apple did and claims 8 percent of the total market, but with zero promotion (and in just the US alone). At 89 cents a song, that's nothing to sneeze at. That's a huge chunk of change. Amazon also sells twice as many whole albums as Apple does, something that probably resonates with record companies (older comsumers, like the demographic I'm rapidly entering, tend to purchase music in that fashion).
Things that could help Apple succeed? Better sharing features (a Facebook button wouldn't hurt when I buy an album). More marketing of course. And an aggressive take on of iTunes.