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CDNOW Usability

Is anyone else bummed out that Amazon has swallowed up CDNOW and regurgitated it as a sloppy, stipped-down hodgepodge of itself?

When it first came out, I thought Amazon had a fair number of usuability innovations, but over time I just think their site has become one big, confusing, over-homogenized mess.

I'm not sure when it happened, but CDNOW currently appears to have become yet another Amazon clone.

The thing I liked most about CDNOW is that their site had many features that were specifically tailored to suit the needs of music enthusiasts.

Gone (as far as I can tell) are most of the ones I liked such as:

- View an artist's entire catalog in a nice, neat chronological list.  (Yes, I know you can still search by artist, but it returns 5,000 sloppy semi-matching results which makes the list get all ongepatshket if you try to sort chronologically)

- See a list of all a particualr album's musicians down at the bottom of the album detail screen and click on any hyperlinked players to automatically see what other projects they've worked on.

- Artist bios are gone.  (At least, I can't find them.)

It is a disturbing trend that Amazon seems to think that their particular interface is so perfectly refined that it suits all e-tailer needs.  Sadly, it doesn't.  Not to come off as an elitist snob, but when it comes to music, the MOST POPULAR results aren't usually what I want to see first.  It might be helpful when trying to decide which programming book to buy, but I think the MOST POPULAR = BEST formula just doesn't work with music.

Are there any alternatives to Amazon left?

Tim Lara
Friday, December 20, 2002

CDNOW is now part of Amazon because it went tits up - it failed as a business.

Woodrow Stool
Friday, December 20, 2002 has a list of alternatives to Amazon for books and music.

Beth Linker
Friday, December 20, 2002

Obviously, CDNOW must have been failing as a business, but I would guess that it was because of operations behind the scenes - not because they didn't have a quality website.

(Besides, since when have Amazon's business numbers been impressive?)

I just don't understand why Amazon had to completely change the look and feel of the CDNOW site.  It doesn't even make sound business sense:  If they wanted to keep the CDNOW brand around and retain past customers, how does it make sense to completely get rid of whatever it was that made those original customers like the old site?

With the approach they've taken instead, they might as well have just put up a single redirect page saying "CDNOW has been shut down.  Click here to go to"...

Tim Lara
Friday, December 20, 2002

tell me abt it.

I really hate the fact that I don't know if that CD is rated by AMG, and the other thing is the CD now rankings(whatever it was called).

Also like the UI & navigation in

There is a good lesson to be learned here, just because another company asks you to run their business (stupid decision thanks to BMG's pricing models), does not mean that it has to look the same way as your company does.

I am sure the no of people buying cd's from still buy from and the ones that were buying from, well they are going to be pissed about the UI, and are not going to buy through cdnow or amazon.

Unlike physical locations in the real world, where you would like all the MACY's to have the same feel, and each of these stores are about 40 miles apart, a website is just a click away.

I have no idea why the guys at amazon did this? Am I missing something?

Prakash S
Friday, December 20, 2002

In fact, Amazon's interface does work pretty well for a wide range of products. It beats most mono-line web sites, IMO, even though specialists have a massive advantage.

Of course you can view an artist's catalog:

But Amazon's is better:

Popularity is by definition the best way to help the majority of shoppers easily find what they are looking for.

Friday, December 20, 2002

A previous poster mentioned AMG, but I don't know if they made it clear. AMG is the All Music Guide - - who have been around since the early 90s cataloguing music and CDNow (and a number of other sites) licensed their content for things like artist discography, listing musicians involved, bios, music maps, etc. All Music is still there and I would guess they're going to be around for a while to come because the concept came around a long time before dot com - you can get all that catalogue information, etc, you miss from their site (and there should still be e-tail sites that use their content too).

The reason that CDNow has become Amazon-ified is that they appear to offer businesses (Borders, Toys'R'Us, etc) a solution based on Amazon's software. It probably costs BMG (the record label - not to be confused with AMG) a lot less to pay Amazon a hosting/provider-type fee than run CDNow in the old way.

Why are Amazon doing this and not providing a unique UI? Well, I'm sure it's a lot cheaper and easier to maintain (eg. introduce new features) - they can probably customise their content management templates fairly easily and the Amazon really is the best e-tailer in the general sense (their recommendations have always been a lot better than CDNow's - CDNow seemed to recommend buying the Meatpuppets regardless of what I purchased; Listmania is also a great way to find out about music/books/etc you might be interested in). Also, this solution means an Amazon shopper should be familiar with the CDNow, Target, Borders, etc interfaces and vice versa (one of Neilsen's rules - do what everyone else is doing).

I think Jeff Bezos and the Amazon team are one of the few who really understand how to do business on the internet. Also think that is one of the few truely great music sites on the web.

Walter Rumsby
Friday, December 20, 2002

Thank you, Walter (and Prakash)!

I did not know that CDNOW licensed content from AMG.

Looks like most (if not all) of what I am missing I can find there.

Don't get me wrong - I don't mean to bash Amazon.  I think they do a lot of things well and I have used their site quite a bit over the years.

I'm just one of those types who is very resistant to change when I get comfortable with something that works well for me, and I noticed that most of the people I know had the same reaction as I did when they ran across the CDNOW changes.

However, I'm sure that the number of disgruntled former CDNOW customers is miniscule compared to the amount of business to be gained from becoming one step closer to being the only game in town.  After all, getting rid of the competition is always a solid business model! ;)

Tim Lara
Friday, December 20, 2002

I also liked the CDNow interface and used it almost exclusively to kepp track of my CD's, my wishlist, research artists, etc.  The only problem for CDNow is that I never bought a CD from them because I always found it cheaper somewhere else.  Exception were 2 rare CDs for a gift several years ago when online options were few and CDNow was my only choice.  I believe I own around 300 to 400 CDs and I think my example shows that their business model sucked.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

The thing that sucks is that all of Amazon's sound clips are in Real Media where CDNOW's were in WMA and RAM.  Personally, I dont even have Real on my system because I think it's a horrible format and there's too much intrusive marketing with it.

I guess I have to find another place to look up Albums now.

I don't buy from Amazon anyway because of all of the silly "patents" that they claim to have.  By the way, if you want good cheap technical books check out their prices are on average 20% less than Amazon's.

Monday, December 23, 2002


ok..well anyway. Amazon baught Read "takeover". It wasn't that CDnow wasn't doing well as an effective business model. I've seen businesses doing much worse hang on for a lot longer. Amazon saw them as a competetive threat to their music they did the logical thing. They purchased them. And CDnow? Well if a giant faceless goon is beating the hell out of you. Thrashing you about the head and neck with a bag full of thousand dollar bills..and tells you to take the money or expect more of the might just take the money and run.

sam the sham
Monday, June 28, 2004

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