Zune review part 2: Zune Marketplace access from Canada

First published on July 21, 2008

As I discussed in part 1 of the Zune review, having a convenient place to purchase songs is useful for Zune and non-Zune users alike. Unfortunately, Canadians likely won’t have access to the Zune Marketplace until late 2008.

Many people can continue to use Torrents, Lime Wire and so on. For those who want to pay for their music (yes, silly us) there is a workaround for buying music in the Zune Marketplace that worked for Canadian me. Whether this will work for you is not guaranteed, so reader beware.

First of all, the reason why I wanted to access the Zune Marketplace so badly is because Puretracks is currently my only option for buying DRM-free mp3s.

WMA-only music at Puretracks

The problem is that the Puretracks selection of mp3s pales in comparison to the Zune Marketplace’s selection.

Same albums with the Zune are available via mp3

In order to purchase songs on the Zune Marketplace, you need to 1) be able to view the Marketplace; and 2) have Microsoft Points to spend.

The first part simply involves changing the location setting in Windows to “United States”:

Changing location setting to United States in Windows

That gets you access to the Marketplace in all its glory, where you can at least download free podcasts. However, in order to purchase songs, you need Microsoft Points. To purchase Microsoft Points directly through the Marketplace, you need a credit card with an American billing address.

Luckily, Microsoft Points are the currency for the Zune Marketplace, Windows Live Gallery, and most importantly, Xbox Live Marketplace. This means that you can purchase points for Xbox Live and apply them to your account to purchase mp3s in the Zune Marketplace.

The possibly quickest solution, which I explored, is to buy an Xbox Live points card from someone on eBay and simply have them e-mail you the points code. Update: as pointed out by Jason in the comments to this post, it is important that you purchase an American points card.

Xbox Live points for sale on eBay

After I purchased the card via PayPal, the seller e-mailed me the code almost immediately. I was then able to apply this code through the Zune software.

Reedeming your Xbox Live points in the Zune software

Armed with some points, purchasing songs in the Zune Marketplace was a cinch, as they downloaded straight away via the software.

The confirm purchase page in the Zune Marketplace

The freedom of the mp3 meant that I could access the file just like any song on my hard drive and even play it in old-school Winamp.

The confirm purchase page in the Zune Marketplace

Finally, I can pay for my music!

If you want to purchase a Zune Pass (unlimited downloads for $14.99 USD a month), Canadians are still out of luck for now. However, that’s not so bad because the fine print says that DRM-free mp3s aren’t included in the monthly subscription fee.

One final note: Microsoft Points are deceptive in their value. For example, one song typically costs 79 points, but the cost to purchase those points is usually just over a dollar, not 79 cents.


See also:

Zune review part 1: highlights and deal breakers
Zune review part 3: Sharing music with Zune Social


10 Responses to “Zune review part 2: Zune Marketplace access from Canada”

  1. Jason Dunn says:

    Nice article – I have a similar one at Zune Thoughts – but you got one important thing wrong: you can’t use Canadian Xbox Live points. If you were to buy a card from Wal-Mart here, or buy points online from your Xbox Live account, the points wouldn’t work for Zune Marketplace purchased. You sort of lucked out by buying it off eBay: those are US-based points and they work in the Zune marketplace. I usually do silly things like ask my friends in the US to buy points cards, scratch them, then send me the code. ;-)

    Jason Dunn
    Executive Editor, Zune Thoughts

  2. Joe blow says:

    I bought a Zune in Canada in July 08. I bought 7 puretracks songs, they wouldn’t load onto my zune copyright licence issues?!

    No problem, I went to zune marketplace, millions of songs there! Oh wait, they sell the Zune, but you can’t access the zune marketplace in Canada!

    I returned my zune for a full refund, bought an ipod and was buying songs within 10 minutes.

    The zune software seemed slow and bloated, it confused the heck out of me. Being in my 30’s, maybe the Zune is marketed for a younger generation. A generation that enjoys bloated, complicated software that is difficult to use.

    I love my 6 hour old Ipod, user friendly, add my creditcard and start buying music. ( When your in your 30’s, you can afford to buy music LOL)

  3. KieN says:

    ok this is a very nice article…but rite now it is…Dec. 23 2008…no canadian zune market place.
    im finding this very irritating, because i dont own a credit card. so i cant really buy from anywere.
    cursed microsoft

  4. Nicholas Rumbolt says:

    Thx man.this article helped me a lot.

  5. Shawn says:

    Great tip for accessing the marketplace, it was frustrating that I couldn’t see it on my computer. As for downloading free podcasts to the zune, I’ve found you can download podcasts from itunes to it if you set the zune program settings to monitor the itunes folder. Download an itunes podcast (video or audio), and the zune software will pick it up; from there you can transfer the podcast to the player. Furthermore, you can then also directly subscribe to the podcast from the zune program, bypassing itunes completely. I don’t know if all itunes podcasts are compatible with the zune, but I haven’t had any problems with the ones I’ve downloaded so far. It came in especially handy for downloading daily Global Canadian news broadcasts.

  6. taysgguy says:

    Make sure your hotmail account’s country is set to United States, not Canada, or else you wont be able to download when you log into your Zune software to purchase

  7. Bobby-T says:

    Ya um… its Jan 19 2010 and still no stupid marketplace, also, they do not alow loggin for canadian users on american pc, just a heads up, and they ask for a phone number and they check it too.

  8. Archie says:

    I am so frustrated with Microsoft and Zune. We’re Canadian and managed to buy a Zune HD by going across the border and buying. We’ve used the trick to access the marketplace and go across the border to buy the monthly passes and points. One difficulty is that we can’t get videos or TV.

    I’ve tried buying points online however even when I use my paypal account they want a phone number which I’ve heard they check. I don’t get what the big deal is. If I want to buy something American online, why can’t I.

    Microsoft seems to think they’re the government by chasing down consumers to ensure they’re in the US or American. What happened to globalization.

    What about if I wanted to buy a MS Points card for someone in the states from Canada … not possible.

    This is stupid. It’s a complete invasion of privacy when a retailer wants to know where I live. If you sell it, why can’t I buy it regardless of where I live.

    And – even if it is a Canadian law that doesn’t allow me to buy it, why can’t microsoft and other retailers simply sell them online, tell consumers they can’t be used with a Canadian account and leave it at that. Why all the secrecy and checking?

    If I can drive across the border and buy a card why can’t I buy one online?

    I feel like we live in China with someone dictating what I can and can’t buy or access via the internet.

  9. Tanner says:

    So does this mean that since I’m in Canada and I already have a lot of music (including albums), I can use the Zune HD here and not worry about the marketplace? I have the 80gb and I have no need to worry, and I probably wouldn’t use the marketplace so…. essentially what I’m asking is is it possible to use the Zune HD in Canada and use the browser and the games while not having the ability to use the marketplace and the HD Radio??

    Reply from Peter: I’m not 100% sure as I don’t have a Zune HD nor am I affiliated with Microsoft. My guess would be yes, though.

  10. christina says:

    The Zune Marketplace is now available with the 4.7 update to the Zune software. So you’ll see the ‘Marketplace’ link at the top; but, (big but), the Canadian Marketplace only offers apps and videos. No music or podcasts to be found :-(

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