Pizza lovers get taste of custom CD world

Promotion: CDNow, currently teamed with Pizza Hut, is one of several companies that lets you pick the songs.

February 14, 2000|By Frances Katz | Frances Katz,Cox News Service

The idea of mixing pizza and pop music is a no-brainer. College students, the cooking-impaired and the just plain lazy have kept takeout pizza joints in business for decades.

So the promotional marriage of Pizza Hut and CDNow draws attention not just to CDNow, an online purveyor of music and music-related products, but to the world of custom CDs.

Everyone knows what pizza is, but this promotion might send a few pizza lovers online to make their own personalized CDs, which is one of the cooler things you can do on the Web. It's 100 percent legal and a lot of fun.

The deal works like this: If you buy a certain type of pizza from Pizza Hut, you get a code number to access a special area on CDNow. Within that area, you'll be able to put together your own CD, which can include tracks from some pretty big stars, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Britney Spears, B.B. King and Dave Matthews, to name a few.

The folks at Pizza Hut clearly see this as an opportunity to get people to buy their pizzas instead of Domino's or Papa John's. They know the young, hungry and wired crowd is probably eating pizza while listening to CDs in their CD-ROM drives while surfing the Web anyway. It's a stroke of marketing genius.

For CDNow, it's an opportunity to draw people to the site, one of the first of its kind but one that faces stiff competition from sources that include Amazon.com, record stores and even the record labels themselves.

CDNow isn't the only Web site that offers users the opportunity to make custom CDs, but the current promotion offers the best selection of big-time artists. While the promotion offers you the opportunity to make a free CD, if you happen to be a music fan who doesn't like pizza, you can still go online and create a personalized CD.

Custom CDs have been on the Web for a while. Along with CDNow and Tower Records, Music maker.com and Customdisc.com let users choose songs from artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Nirvana. You can fill your disc with at least 70 minutes of music for a manufacturing fee plus a charge (usually under a dollar) for each song.

You also get to play record producer by arranging the order of the songs and giving your CD a title -- in some cases you even pick the cover design.

The other cool thing about building a custom CD is you can listen to each song before you decide to add it to your disc.

If you decide to make a custom CD, the cost is usually about $25.99 -- probably more than you'd pay for a CD on sale at the mall, but then again, it isn't customized to suit you.

These are standard music discs you can listen to with any CD player in your home, car or office. They have nothing to do with MP3, Liquid Audio or any other digital download format. Your disc comes in the mail several weeks after you place your order, ready to play.

Back in the '80s, retail stores tried offering consumers the opportunity to mix their own cassette tapes, but it was far too labor-intensive for employees, and users would spend hours in front of the machines sampling songs.

Some companies want to bring the custom CD concept to bricks-and-mortar record stores, but right now the Web is the only place where music fans can compile their own CDs from a variety of artists and songs for a pretty reasonable price. For music lovers who want to make their dream desert-island disc, custom CD sites are definitely worth a visit, whether or not you buy a pizza.

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