Amazon.com Beefs Up CD Sales; Stock Surges

The "world's largest bookstore" may be on its way to becoming one of the biggest music stores, too. Two weeks ago, Amazon.com began a big push into CD retailing, more than doubling the number of its musical offerings to over 100,000 titles. (Competitor CDnow offers over 500,000 titles.) Visitors to the Amazon website can now click on a tab that will take them to a new music site, where they can listen to audio previews and read reviews, reprints of articles on bands and musicians, and music-industry news.

Amazon.com's selections are organized in traditional broad categories such as classical, rock, blues, and jazz. For those who canÆt distinguish Hard Rock from Heavy Metal, each broad category is further divided into such subgenres as Punk, Thrasher, and Grunge, with educational descriptions of each.

"If you donÆt know the difference between acid jazz and free jazz, we describe each of these, plus we list the essential CDs for each genre," said David Risher, an Amazon.com senior vice president. "It's a way of learning about a genre so you don't wind up with a couple of ridiculous easy-listening jazz discs that'll embarrass you in front of serious jazz listeners." Recommended music-related books are another feature.

The "personalizing" informational content is provided by Muze, a database company founded in 1991 to offer support to book, music, and video retailers. Some of Muze's other clients are Barnes & Noble, The Borders Group, Best Buy, Blockbuster, Tower Records, Camelot Music, and Virgin MegaStores. "We are excited to be working with a company that continues to pioneer the online retail industry. Amazon.com will be offering the same high-quality service to its music customers that it does for its millions of book customers," said Anthony Laudico, Muze's CEO.

Prices are substantially discounted. Columbia's standard issue of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is $8.38, plus $2.99 for postage. Each additional disc adds $0.99 to the mailing charge. N2K's Music Boulevard (also a Muze client) charges $2.49 postage plus $0.49 for each additional disc. Columbia House, one of the most popular mail-order music operations, charges $2.39 per disc regardless of quantity, as does BMG at $2.49.

Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN) stock has surged since its musical upgrade began. After two months of hovering in the mid-40s, it began a steep climb on June 6, rising from $44 on that date to a high of $82.50 on June 18th. The stock closed Friday, June 19th, at $75.81.

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