(This is another in a continuing series of reports about music on the Internet.)
Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports:
Every year, all hell breaks loose on the day after Thanksgiving, when
shops are packed with holiday gift buyers, cash registers are ching-chinging
at every turn, and harried sales clerks try not to drown in the bustle
of it all.
But where's the excitement in the online world? Do dot-com CEOs hover
over their computer monitors, tracking each order that comes in?
Not at music retailer CDNow. This year the company waited until the
Thanksgiving weekend was over to examine holiday orders. Their excitement
began when statistics showed 1999 sales and traffic had tripled over the
same weekend last year, spokesperson Marlo Zoda said.
But on Dec. 2, when the company hit a high-water mark of 1 million page
views in a single day (repeated on Dec. 4), they let the electronic
"We sent out an e-mail to the entire company to let everybody know about
this incredible milestone," Zoda said.
The folks at CDNow are far from the only Internet retailers with dollar
signs in their eyes this year. Almost 20 percent of shoppers planned to
do some holiday shopping on the Web, according to a recent Wall Street
United Parcel Service predicted that Wednesday (Dec. 22) would be its
biggest air delivery day ever, with 4.3 million packages shipped.
Some of those packages likely will be CDs and other music goodies sent
from online giant Amazon.com. Amazon.com's orders over the Thanksgiving
weekend were up 2.5 times over last year, according to Greg Hart, the
company's product manager for music.
That's not to say Internet sales are taking over the shopping season.
Online buying will account for only 3 percent of holiday shopping this
year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But that's up from last year's one percent. And it's only expected to get
bigger, as more people get access to the Net and try shopping there.
"It's going to be a long time before Internet sales level out," said
analyst Ken Cassar of Jupiter Communications' digital commerce group.
A number of factors make music an ideal venue for first-time online shopping.
CDs are relatively inexpensive, and there's no difference between the Beck
disc you buy at the mall and the one you buy on the Net.
Also, you can listen to songs online before you buy, and you can easily
check out reviews of potential gifts.
And, as with any product, online music shoppers can avoid the crowds at
the local mall. Anonymity also offers an incentive, according to Zoda.
"Maybe you don't want to buy a John Tesh album from a kid with a mohawk,"
she said. "Maybe you're embarrassed."
While CDs make up the bulk of current online music purchases, other music
products are expected to gain steam in the years ahead. Amazon.com's
suppliers couldn't keep portable MP3 players in stock for this holiday
season, Hart said. (Neither Amazon.com nor CDNow would release specific
Custom compact discs also are expected to grow in popularity. This year,
a make-your-own Beastie Boys compilation became one of the best-selling
custom discs in musicmaker.com's history, according to company representative
CDNow's custom Christmas disc offer allows listeners to choose holiday
tracks from artists ranging from crooner Bing Crosby to soul man Al Green
to surf-rockers the Ventures. For one week in late November and early
December it was the store's most popular holiday album, Zoda said,
out-selling Jewel's new Joy: A Holiday Collection, which includes
the folk singer's renditions of such classics as "O Holy Night" (RealAudio excerpt).
Country rockers Wilco have released new, live-in-the-studio video
clips for four songs at CDNow. The segments, offered in streaming Windows
Media format, also include interview footage and will be available through
mid-January, according to a press release. Wilco are the first band to
take part in CDNow's new "WebSessions" promotion, which will include
additional bands in the months ahead. ...
New videos from Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Around the World"), Missy
"Misdemeanor" Elliott ("Hot Boyz") and Kid Rock ("Only God
Knows Why") are featured on the recently launched PreviewTunes.com site.
Part of Time Warner's new Entertaindom.com family of websites, PreviewTunes
includes dozens of streaming Windows Media audio and video clips from
R.E.M., Metallica, Madonna, Sugar Ray, LL
Cool J, Barenaked Ladies and others. ...
Clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger launched his new Tommy.com page last week
with a focus on music as much as fashion. The site includes the Tommy
Radio Internet station, testimonials about Tommy gear from musicians such
as Jewel, and interview and video clips from Bush and
Lil' Cease. The site doesn't sell Hilfiger's clothes, but it
"provides us with another avenue for communicating [our] lifestyle vision,"
the designer said in a release. ...
RuffLife, the new label from Ruffhouse (Fugees, Kris Kross)
Records founder Chris Schwartz, will be distributed via download by the Atomic Pop Internet label. RuffLife's first release will be the Night Life EP by hip-hoppers the Outsidaz. The first cut from the set, "Don't Look Now," already is available in RealAudio on the Atomic Pop website (www.atomicpop.com). Atomic Pop is best known for releasing Public Enemy's most recent album, There's
a Poison Goin' On ... ...
Online MP3-storage site myplay (www.myplay.com) is offering a holiday
promotion that allows users to send friends musical e-mail greetings.
Listeners can choose to send groups of songs compiled by musicians such
as Willie Nelson, Ben Folds and Kid Rock, or create
their own playlist of tracks stored in their myplay accounts. For every
greeting sent, myplay donates $1 to the City of Hope cancer research
The MP3 website Riffage.com said last week it had raised $21 million from
new investors. Among the heavy hitters putting cash in Riffage are BMG
Entertainment (Santana, Foo Fighters, Whitney Houston)
and America Online. Riffage is one of several sites offering downloads
from mostly unknown artists.