Ng Han Guan/AP

Plus, what's the connection between Britney Spears and Metallica?

May 25, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

When you’ve racked up more than 16 million in album sales, you’re not exactly hurting for cash. So why did Alanis Morissette file with the SEC on May 3 to sell 100,000 shares (worth $1 million) of her stock?

Neither MP3 nor Morissette will say. But in light of MP3’s recent legal troubles (it just lost an April 28 copyright suit brought against it by the Recording Industry Association of America), the renegade company’s future — and stock value — is uncertain. The angst-ridden singer raised eyebrows when she struck up a promotional partnership with the controversial online music distribution company in April ’99, offering them a previously unreleased track. The deal not only positioned her as a maverick supporter of digital distribution, but allowed her the option to buy 329,328 shares of the company’s stock at 33 cents a pop.

Though the stock reached a high of $105 last July, like many pure Internet plays, it has since nosedived. Does the fact that Morissette is dumping a third of her holdings suggest she’s no longer super-infatuated with the sponsors of her 1999 summer tour? ”I don’t think it’s a fundamental statement of her lack of belief in MP3, because [if she sold it all] she’d walk away with $3.4 million,” says John Rose, head of McKinsey & Company’s global media and entertainment division. ”Fiscal conservatism in a world where Internet values, by and large, are plummeting is reasonable.” Either way, the payoff’s no jagged little pill for Morissette.

SEARCH SYSTEM ERROR Is there a ghost in the machine at The music site’s Album Advisor function, devised to direct shoppers toward other CDs up their alley, has been spitting out some harebrained suggestions. For instance, when we keyed in the upcoming Belle and Sebastian record, it recommended ”Macarena Christmas Dance Party”; Metallica’s explicit version of ”Garage Inc.” got us Britney Spears, and Britney Spears yielded a classical album, ”French Music From 1900.” ”Hmmm, that’s interesting,” says CDNOW spokesperson Amy James, who admits that the company’s computer program merely searches purchase overlaps by CDNOW’s buyers, and is not an actual tastemaker. ”Young kids might buy both Metallica and Britney, or it could be that someone is buying something for themselves and for their niece.” Or maybe there’s an untapped demo of 13 year old Francophiles out there?

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