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Tune in to music shopping on the Web

February 21, 1997
Web posted at: 10:50 a.m. EST (1550 GMT)

From CNN Interactive Staff Writer Liza Kaufman Hogan

If you're looking for music bargains on the Web, here's some sound advice: don't believe everything you hear. Many of the 100 or so online music sites, claim to have the best selection and lowest prices but it really depends on what you're looking for, where you live, and how long you're willing to wait for your music.

It doesn't matter if a site has 100,000 titles in stock if most are surplus albums by garage bands that you never heard of. Nor will you be impressed by saving $2 off the latest new release from The Cranberries, if you have to pay $3.50 in shipping and wait four-to-six weeks to get it.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for rare recordings that your corner music store is not likely to stock, you may find the online stores invaluable. Some of the better sites offer added features like sound samples, reviews, musician biographies and e-mail services which update you on new releases and sales according to your musical preferences. So, even if you don't decide to buy from them, you may find these sites useful.

Don't feel like driving? Go to store online

Even if you can find what you want at your local music store, why not save yourself the trip? Tower Records and Blockbuster Music both offer good online versions of their off-line stores.


Tower's site boasts 150,000 titles and a buy-five-get-one free offer for new members. You can search the site by artist, album, song and producer in any of 22 music genres. The prices are comparable to what you would pay in the store, with shipping costs running anywhere from $3 to $8 depending on the size of your order and where you live.

Tower also offers music reviews, detailed information on musicians and E-pulse, an online version of the store's in-house music magazine. With Real Audio, you can listen to samples from some of the new releases. Blockbuster has most of the same features, with an option for pre-ordering new releases and a good selection of sound files which do not require Real Audio.

Try before you buy

If sound files are what you're after, try World Wide Music which boasts more than 200,000 sound files from 40,000 albums. Sound files are available in Real Audio or .au format. This site also allows you to customize your music preferences. When you listen to a selection, you are asked to rate it from poor to excellent so that World Wide Music can suggest other music for you based on your particular tastes. Be careful though, don't give a song by Metallica an excellent rating if your heart really belongs to Michael Bolton. also lets users rate music for personalized music suggestions. You can browse through 25 genres, 600 styles, 700 instruments or 400 regions. Album listings include biographies of musicians and discographies. The site also has an impressive selection of sound files in Real Audio and mpeg format. Music Boulevard is another good general interest and music browsing site. The site's Music Wire section features five or six music news stories each day.

Off the beaten track

There are several good sites for those whose music tastes are eclectic or international. Planet Earth Music carries New Age, ethnic, ambient and world music among other things. With fewer than 200 titles, it can't compete with the selection offered by the larger online music companies, but then again, it caters to a narrow audience. Where else would you find a review of music in a genre described as contemporary Native-American jazz?

For imports, American music lovers should check out Compact Disc Europe, a Florida-based importer that fills orders through most major labels and independents overseas. Music lovers outside the United States may find PastelBlue's Cheap or What?! CDs a more useful source for imports. The British-based site includes a currency converter for 25 countries.

For buying and selling used CD's, browse through the 8,000 titles offered at Audio House Used Compact Discs. Audio House sells CD's for $1 to $10 and pays 25 cents to $5 for your CDs. Those who haven't the time to sort through endless, unalphabetized bins at the corner used CD store, will find this site useful since it takes only moments to see if they have what you want in stock. Audio House claims to update its list of used CDs daily. Shipping costs, starting at $3, can chip into your bargain, but a rare find will make it worth your while.

Join the club

You've seen them in your mailbox, now you can join the club that brings you 11 CDs for $1.49 on the Internet.

Two of the better-known music-buying clubs, BMG Music Service and Columbia House, have useful Web sites.

Both clubs offer a deal in which you buy a set number of compact discs for an absurdly low price, then agree to purchase others at full price over the course of the membership. The trouble with these clubs, for most, is that if you forget to mail in the card telling the club not to send you a particular CD one month, it's yours -- like it or not. But now, Columbia and BMG allow you to cancel your order via the Web site making the deal much more attractive.


Related sites:

BMG Classical -- The Classical music site from BMG Entertainment. (Separate from BMG Music Service).

CDNow -- Rock, jazz and classical music selections plus movies.

GEMM -- Global Electronic Music Marketplace with access to 950,000 music titles.

Internet mall -- extensive list of music-related sites.

Music Store Reviews -- Amateur site comparing eight online music stores. Some reviews outdated.

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