What Determined the Length of an Audio CD?

What determined the length of the audio CD developed by Sony? It was based on the length of the longest recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Tyler Cowen quotes from Tim Büthe and Walter Mattli's book The New Global Rulers: The Privatization of Regulation in the World Economy:

Sony had initially preferred a smaller diameter, but soon after the beginning of the collaboration started to argue vehemently for a diameter of 120mm. Sony’s argument was simple and compelling: to maximize the consumer appear of a switch to the new technology, any major piece of music needed to fit on a single CD…Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was quickly identified as the point of reference — according to some accounts, it was the favorite piece of Sony vice-president Norio Ohga’s wife. And thorough research identified the 1951 recording by the orchestra of the Bayreuther Festspiele under Wilhelm Furtwängler, at seventy-four minutes, as the slowest performance of the Ninth Symphony on record. And so, according to the official history, Sony and Philips top executives agreed in their May 1980 meeting that “a diameter of 12 centimeters was required for this playing time.”


Amazon Link via Marginal Revolution | Photo by Flickr user Leo-setä used under Creative Commons license

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