I was looking through my CD collection, and I found that almost all the CDs only had 12 songs on them. Why is that? Is this some marketing trick that record companies use?

By: Samanta, Scottsdale, Arizona

A.B. Replies: At the risk of being sued by the go-getting legal and business minds associated with Abba, the answer, like so many others, is money, money, money. Or more accurately, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money money.

For every song that goes on a CD, there is a strong likelihood that a record company will owe many people royalties for a long, long time. Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man" actually involves plenty of other men, including writers and producers, and their mothas, their brothas, their sistas and they friends, all of whom will want their cut. But: Limit the number of songs to about a dozen per album, and a record company can cap the number of people they owe, while still giving music fans just enough Christina to avert complaints of robbery.

"By keeping the number of songs between ten and twelve, that keeps their expenses in check," says Carla Lynne Hall, a former marketer with a music management company, as well as a former music business journalist.

"You'll occasionally see artists release a two-CD set as a novelty, but generally, artists make more money on the songs by waiting to release the songs on their next CD," Hall tells this B!tch.

(The song limitations also help preserve a diva's delicate vocal "instrument" from going the way of Rita Cosby. Otherwise Mariah might wake up one morning unable to reach those high Cs that keep the chihuahuas of Los Angeles extra twitchy.)

For the record, there is no rule or law stating that artists must include a certain number of songs per CD. It just...happens! A guy named Dave Taylor, a business author, wrote in to tell this B!tch that the average number of tracks on his 428-allbum CD collection is 12.54.

Albums that offer more tracks usually come from artists who tend to do more of their own writing and producing, therefore keeping their money within the "family," as Diddy might fancy it.

"Many artists who write and produce their own albums will offer their fans more music, as they would get all the proceeds from the album sales without having to share it with other songwriters and producers," explains Angela Thomas, former vice president of marketing at EMI, Sony and Polygram.

Ergo, Gnarls Barkley, whose members both perform and produce, can offer 16 tracks on "St. Elsewhere." (I refuse to say they're cray-zay.)

Artists do occasionally fight to add more tracks on their albums, but the labels tend to fight back, and the labels tend to win. Even spitfire artists who are young and spry can't win those boxing matches--not even Nellie McKay, who throws off a serious you-don't-want-to-mess-with-me-vibe.

In January, the press aired a giant spat that McKay was having with her label, Columbia, over the number of tracks on her sophomore effort, "Pretty Little Head." The label wanted 16. McKay wanted 23. McKay took her fight to the media. The label dropped her. McKay then crawled off into a bunker and wrote exactly 488 mean, Broadway-style piano tunes about the people at Columbia and how they will each meet their slow, pitiless doom. I am sure every single one of those tracks will be on her next--independently produced--five-box album.

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