Amazon caters to long tail with out-of-print CDs

A new program from Amazon will print single copies of discontinued CDs as fans order them. Record labels win by gaining a new way to sell their back catalog without maintaining big stocks of unsold records, and fans win by having more music available.

Every now and then, the traditional record industry comes up with a win-win for all involved. Take for example today's announcement from Amazon.com of a new service called Back from the Vault, which offers out-of-print albums for sale as CDs or MP3s.

Amazon.com

The key to the program is Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace, which manufacturers individual CDs as users demand them--very similar to part of the service Audiolife provides for independent musicians. (CreateSpace also lets musicians self-publish, and provides similar services for books and video.) In this case, more than 20 record labels have contracted with CreateSpace to make more than 1,000 long-discontinued CDs available through Amazon's store; customers can also buy MP3s of the same albums.

The program's deepest in the jazz category, with nearly 300 titles from the likes of Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner, but it also has quite a deep bed of alternative rock, and random nuggets like Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to the Adrian Lyne version of "Lolita."

This is a triple win: record companies and artists get to sell more of their back catalog without having to keep warehouses full of seldom-sold CDs, Amazon increases its long-tail appeal, and music fans have another avenue to buy previously unavailable music.

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