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Wal-Mart unveils customized music CDs

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Tuesday unveils its new service that allows online shoppers to customize music CDs.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is now offering customized music CDs for its online customers. The world's largest retailer launched the new service Tuesday.

Like other companies, the Bentonville-based Wal-Mart already offers customers music they can download at their home computers for a fee. Customers with the proper technology can burn those songs to a CD.

Now, customers can go to the company's Web site and select songs from a catalog of more than 400,000 choices, including rock, pop, country and new releases.

"We recognize music is not only important, but incredibly personal to our customers," Kevin Swint,'s director of media categories, said in a news release. "The service is readily accessible to customers without a CD burner or who prefer not to download music."

Wal-Mart will put the selections on CD and mail the CD to the customer. Customers will choose the title and packaging of their CD from a variety of images online and can expect their purchase to arrive in three or four days.

Amy Colella, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman in Brisbane, Calif., where the world's largest retailer's online operations are based, said many customers without a CD burner or broadband access to the Internet — which makes downloading music faster — prefer having their music in CD format.

"We see that physical CDs at our site at continue to be strong," she said. "This (the customized CD) is just another service option. It's really just kind of to give them that added convenience."

The cost to download music from the site is 88 cents per song or typically $9.44 an album, Colella said. The cost for a customized CD of three songs is $4.62 plus 88 cents for each additional song. Shipping costs $1.97.

Analyst Phil Leigh of Tampa, Fla., founder of Inside Digital Media Inc., said other companies have been-there, done-that.

"I think they (Wal-Mart) are going to be disappointed. The price isn't that attractive. It was tried before" by a few startup companies in the dot-com boom and was not successful, Leigh said. Also, other companies, like Apple iTunes, offer downloadable music that provides consumers "instant gratification."

"There's no real cost advantage to what Wal-Mart is offering here," Leigh said.

Starbucks offers customized CDs at its coffee shops but the advantage there is that customers can get their CDs while they sip their favorite cup of java.

Leigh predicted Wal-Mart would have trouble overcoming the desire for an immediate return on the money paid. He also said the pool of people without CD burners or broadband Internet access was shrinking. In addition, those without a CD burner most likely are in lower-income brackets.

"You're addressing a market that is typically not a high-discretionary income market," Leigh said.