* The CD era's fidelity achievements (each of the new jukes holds six internal speakers and has the capacity to drive eight external speakers) allow the box to act as an all-around public-address system when needed. Add a microphone, a master of ceremonies and a pitcher of cold water and, bingo, it's Wet Tee Shirt night. Or you might actually have a game of bingo. The possibilities are vast. * For longer album cuts (or particularly long and/or annoying album selections, such as the Beatles' "Revolution Number 9" or anything by the Oak Ridge Boys) the computer can ask for a premium payment. On some jukeboxes, ultrapopular songs like "Stairway to Heaven," "Free Bird," or "Layla" cost more than others. If it discourages overplay of these three tunes alone, this is a breakthrough worthy of a Nobel Prize. * Certain songs can be "locked out" from play entirely. When players push these banned numbers, the computer tells them, "Song Not Allowed." Chris Wilson, president of Sound Entertainment, one of the local leaders in placing CD jukeboxes in bars, has a customer who requested that a certain song on a Jimmy Buffett best-of disc be locked out. The bar owner, who was otherwise pleased with his rowdy late-afternoon crowd, begged for Buffett's "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" to be banned. "When they hear that song they go nuts," the bar owner told Wilson. "Pool cues start to fly. What they really hear is, `Why Don't We Get Drunk and Wreck My Bar.'"
* Because of the great variety of CDs available, specialty programming is a possibility. Irish bars can fill a dozen slots with Chieftans albums. Go-go bars can fill theirs with butt-shakers by ZZ Top and Van Halen. A Mexican food restaurant on lower Central Avenue can fill its rooms with the latest sounds from south of the border. It's possible for bar owners to slip a few personal favorites onto the list, which explains why you might find Billie Holiday or Duke Ellington on jukeboxes at biker bars. Jukeboxes are no longer limited to the 100 greatest hits of all time. Variety has given the medium new life. * It's even possible to "program" a bar's customer mix. To avoid having to clean up after rough 'n' tumble construction workers, leave the Metallicas and AC/DCs off your box. To ensure a healthy draw of morning drinkers (primarily older fellows and night-shift workers), be sure to include a couple of big-band discs or old-time country artists like the Hanks--Snow, Thompson, and Williams. The after-work pool-and-darts crowd prefers "classic" rockers. "There is some science to it," Wilson says. FROM CHRIS WILSON'S perspective, the ideal jukebox bar is open for business 129 hours a week, the maximum allowed by law. Zero or very little live music occurs. The TV's always on, but the sound is off. The clientele is peaceful and respectful of the property of others. Wilson does a detailed examination of a bar's potential before he'll lease out any of Sound Entertainment's expensive equipment, and can usually predict whether a place can make his desired weekly nut. If a bar comes up short in Wilson's eyes, an owner will have to cough up the minimum himself. A brand-new CD jukebox costs upward of $6,000. Add the CDs--"software" in the parlance of the business--and you add another $1,000 at least. It's a major investment, particularly for businesses that sometimes count their daily profits in bar change. Hence the market slot for businesses like Sound Entertainment, founded by Ben Brooks, a local businessperson who foresaw the CD-jukebox revolution in time to venture some capital on a fleet of the machines. Chris Wilson runs the business for Brooks, and oversees the company's dealings with more than 100 local bars and restaurants. In addition to putting the machines in place, Wilson and his staff see to it that they keep running. The CDs, though smaller and more fragile looking than 45s, are actually much better built for the rugged bar life. Instead of a metallic pin carving its way through a record's groove, CDs make music via pits cut into the disc's surface. A laser reads the coded pits and converts them into Patsy Cline singing "Crazy." All service--replacing and updating the discs, programming the microprocessor and routine cleanings--is handled by Sound Entertainment staffers.
Sound Entertainment promises a ninety-minute response time on repair calls and helps bar owners "program" the boxes. "The bar owner is in the business of selling whiskey," Wilson says--not following every wrinkle in the pop or country music charts. Unlike the days of 45 machines, bar workers don't get to mess with the equipment. "There's nothing good he can do by putting his nose in there," says Wilson. "The bartender doesn't get a key."