TITLE: CDnow! The Internet Music Store
CDnow! is a Web site that provides listings and an ordering facility for over 100,000 music CD and cassette titles. Encryption is available for credit card information. According to the information on the home page, they were scheduled to install T1 lines at the end of December. In the meantime, they encouraged users to access them via telnet (telnet://cdnow.com) for improved speed. The home page also advises that they support Netscape, not Mosaic. I used telnet to look at this site, which worked fine.
The CDNow! store is divided into rock, pop, jazz, country, other music and classical music. Most of my exploration was on classical music, but I did try the other as well. I used the Schwann Spectrum to compare listings in the "Pop Store" and the Schwann Opus to compare listings in the "Classical Store".
When you enter the Pop Store, there are a number of searching options and interesting links. You can type in an album title, artist's name, or search by song title or record label. You can also select a link : modern rock, jazz, grunge, 70's rock, artists featured in the current issue of their Pop magazine (also available online). You can see an album's review and songlist and an artist's biography when available.
The Classical Store presents you with a menu selection of search keys: composer, album title, work title, conductor, performer, label/catalog number. Once you select one, there are additional menu items that allow you to specify orchestra, performer, genre, or primary instrument. All of these can be combined.
A comparison of numbers of listings between CDNow! and Schwann varied in results. Schwann lists 5 titles for the Beastie Boys, while CDNow! lists 12. This includes titles that are listed as "unavailable", as well as imports and singles. CDNow! lists all the Betty Carter recordings that Schwann does plus 3 more. For Branford Marsalis, Schwann lists all the recordings that CDNow! does plus 2 more.
P.D.Q. Bach is duly listed in both sources under Schickele; CDNow! requires you to look under both composer and performer to get all their P.D.Q. Bach recordings, and lacked some of the classics such as Last tango in Bayreuth and Portrait of P.D.Q. Bach (which includes the Missa hilarious and Eine kleine Nichtmusik) - but nevertheless has a pretty good representation.
On the whole, CDNow!'s listings seem comparable to Schwann's in the non-classical area, less so in the classical. But most of the key recordings do seem to be listed, and if the one you want is there you can go ahead and order it. I tried looking for some CD's that have been requested by faculty that I had been unable to find in Schwann. I did find one in CDNow!, listed as "unavailable", and was equally unable to find the others.
CDNow! has some features not available in Schwann. Ratings from the All-Music Guide are given when available. The ratings are "good", "finest", "best of genre", and "first pick". You can search by song title, label title, conductor, and performer. All the tracks of movie soundtracks are listed. Having biographies available is nice. Videos are listed as well as sound recordings. I thought this was a great feature, except that all the ones I happened upon are listed as "discontinued".
Searching for recordings under classical composers is problematic. Where Schwann lists recordings by the title of the work recorded, CDNow! lists them by album. I found it very difficult to find recordings of Bach cantatas in CDNow!, as many of them began with words other than "cantata". The albums A Christian celebration, Ave Maria, Bachbusters, Cantata no. 147, Cantatas 50, 34, 147, and Cantatas: no. 147 all contain Cantata no. 147 but are listed in alphabetical order by album title. The titles with the colon after the word "cantatas" file after the titles without the colon after the word "cantatas".
On the whole, I think this site is worth looking at. Particularly if you know the recording you want. If you want to be sure you've seen all the recordings of a particular composer, particularly in the classical field, I would check the Schwann as well.
Music Subject Specialist
George Washington University