Shapely CDs put music world in a spin

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The Independent Online
NIGEL WILLMOTT and REBECCA FOWLER

For Tchaikovsky it might be a swan, for the Rolling Stones a pair of pouting lips and for Madonna a basque. You can now have a CD in any shape - as long as it's not round.

The launch of multi-shaped CDs was announced this weekend, following the fluke discovery by two German students that the discs do not need not be round to play. They achieved the breakthrough after attacking an old Kylie Minogue CD with a fret saw.

Mario Koss, 27, studying Chinese and economics, and Axel Wilhelm, 31, training to be a sound engineer at Berlin's Free University, cut grooves into the CD and discovered Ms Minogue's songs were still intact from start to finish.

"We just wondered what would happen. Now we ask ourselves every day why did no one think of this before," Mr Koss said.

The implications for the marketing of the CD, which has reached sales of 14 billion in its circular form, are endless. Record companies are already commissioning artists for new designs.

A CD has a vast storage capacity, and plays from the inside out, which means that only a small central circle is necessary to carry up to 60 minutes of music. The rest of the disc is redundant, and Mr Koss and Mr Wilhelm have developed the technique that allows it to be used in different shapes for mass production.

The launch was met enthusiastically at the music industry's annual festival in Cannes. A number of experimental copies have already been pressed. The first shaped CD was launched in Germany in the form of a cog wheel.

Burger King produced 1 million copies of a hamburger-shaped dance compilation as part of a promotion; and David Bowie-shaped CDs went on limited release to launch the singer's latest single.

The computer industry is also experimenting with different shaped CDs, and has produced the most complex design so far, a medieval monster for a CD-rom game. A car-shaped CD is to follow for a quiz that will coincide with the start of the Formula 1 season.

The fret saw used for the original experiment is now in a glass case in the Berlin office taken over by the two students. They have set up a company to sell their designs, headed by Mr Koss's grandmother.

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