For every band moving up on the charts, there are thousands eking out a living through live gigs, where they sell their own CDs. However, according to CNet.com, many run afoul of minimum pressings of 1,000 to get a decent per-disc price. Now, taking a page from the on-demand book printing industry, Audiolife is offering bands the ability to overcome the burden of unsold inventory by producing a CD only after it has been ordered.

The setup has become familiar to anyone ordering t-shirts or other kitschy items from small web-based companies or not-for-profits. An Internet store offers a wide selection of products. When the customer orders, for example, a "Jesus Pwns Spiderman" t-shirt (hands off- that's my design) from the company's online store, the order is routed to a third party fulfillment house. There, a t-shirt blank of the ordered size is printed, packed and drop-shipped. The company has no upfront costs and no risk, except the cost of time and web site. The fulfillment house provides services for thousands of stores, customizing stock materials to take advantage of economies of scale.

Audiolife will be a strong competitor for a predecessor in the field, CD Baby, which claims at this time to offer music by 268,350 artists. CD Baby charges a $35 setup fee, $4 for each CD sold and 9% from downloaded tunes. Audiolife doesn't charge a setup fee, but takes a $3 cut from MP3 album sales and $5.49 for CDs. Audiolife also will handle commemorative items like tour t-shirts.

Audiolife also handles ring tones, a business recently pilloried in Doonesbury.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm the only person left in America without an online store. Perhaps I could set my blog posts to music.... Maybe people would pay me to stop singing. Or writing.

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