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Make Your Own CD! ('90s Hits Not Included)


Web sites offering customized music compact discs, where a person selects the songs and the company then presses the disc and mails it to the customer, is one of those intuitively good ideas gone astray, leaving us hoping that time and technology will eventually bridge the gap with artistic freedom, intellectual property laws and marketing goals.

Sites such as (http://www.custom, Musicmaker ( and CDuctive ( have sprouted over the last year and a half, signing up labels, artists and distributors as fast as they can.

To date, however, the participating labels have been limited to the likes of K-Tel/Dominion Entertainment and Musik Faktory Records. Not exactly the big names. Some sites do have selections from hit artists such as Beck, Nirvana, and Green Day . . . from before Beck, Nirvana and Green Day were hit artists.

Until the major labels sign on, these sites will feed on the edges of the music industry, luring people into listening to, and eventually buying, music from obscure artists, or perhaps encouraging us to get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born.

"Everyone understands what the future is and that the record labels will have to migrate to a model that allows consumers not only to choose what music they want, but also how they distribute it," said David Gould, chairman and chief executive of Custom Revolutions Inc., owner of the CustomDisc site.

In any case, Web sites delivering customized compact discs may only be a holding place as we wait for the broadband future to deliver downloadable, CD-quality audio. Musicmaker, in fact, recently began allowing downloading of singles off its Web site, although the company expects the majority of its sales to continue to come from selling compact discs at least through 2002.

"All of the major labels are dabbling with this," said Bruce Block, co-founder of Musicmaker. "There are still improvements to be made, but dealing with piracy is the same safety issue as running a credit card over the Web. It takes time to change the culture."

Music industry executives said issues range from the relatively high cost of promoting singles to "coupling," the art of deciding which songs by whom will appear on which albums together, a particularly sticky issue in negotiating compilation discs and movie soundtracks.

Music industry economics revolve around the hit single, which pays for virtually everything else, including the overwhelming number of less-popular cuts, and unless the pricing is done correctly, custom compact discs could slice into overall sales.

If, as Don Henley says, the lawyers clean up all details, precisely worded licensing agreements will solve most of these concerns, and advances in copyright-protecting technology and time to research pricing issues will resolve the others.

In the meantime, we'll have to settle for music from either another generation or another frame of mind.

To be sure, hits from 30 years ago still have great appeal. Musicmaker features the Troggs' "Wild Thing" and the Yardbirds' "For Your Love." Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" and Shanana's "The Purple People Eater," available on, make great fodder for a Halloween disc.

And die-hard fans of specific artists might want to try out the cuts their favorite artists made before they made it big, such as Hole's "Over the Edge," from its pre-Elektra days, on

But after making the first few discs, the selection of familiar songs and artists gets thin, and you end up sifting through the likes of punk covers of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love."

Trying out music that had previously been limited to college radio or categorized as "alternative country" is a time-consuming task and only for the brave. But sites such as CDuctive make it easy to listen to cuts for free before you have the disc made.


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