Milk? Sugar? Aging Rocker? – 02/07/2006
As mentioned in the previous weeks blog, I’m going to talk about the current Starbucks phenomena that’s taking the music industry by a frothy storm.
Righto then, a brief background: Starbucks bought ‘Hearmusic’ in 1999 , opened the first music/coffee store in 2004 and have since gone from selling music to various other fields to eventually becoming a record label when they joined up with Concord Music a few months ago in March.
Before they became an actual record label they signed an exclusive deal with Alanis Morissette to distribute an acoustic version of the brilliant album ‘Jagged Little Pill’ on its tenth anniversary which did rather well. They signed an exclusive deal with Bob bleedin Dylan to sell his ‘Live at the Gaslight 1962’ album and they scored big time with the Ray Charles ‘Genius Loves Company’ album which sold loads and won about 498 grammys.
The Morrisette and Dylan albums pissed music retailers off no end, even causing HMV to refuse to stock any of their albums in their Canadian stores in their anger.
Since becoming a record label they’ve now released their debut album ‘Memory Almost Full’ by the one and only Paul McCartney. I attended a lecture by Macca a couple of months ago and when asked why he signed to Starbucks he said ‘My producer (or manager, or someone like that) is mates with the head of Hearmusic, so I though ‘Why not?'”
Why not indeed Paul?
Now that doesn’t really annoy me as arguably it’s not his job to think about that side of the industry and all he wants to do is create music, but you’d think someone with McCartney’s power and reputation would have a stronger interest in where his music is being sold?
Now the thing that makes Starbucks amazing when it comes to selling music is the fact that they’re selling them for full retail price… and selling out of their stock!
Who the fuck spends £15+ on an album any more?! You could go to HMV and get it for £10, Tesco will do it you for £9 and you’ll more then likely get it even cheaper online! It’s basically yuppies who first of all don’t mind spending a fiver 3 times a day on coffee and therefore will more the happily buy some harmless music to listen to whilst pretending to read the culture section of the guardian.
And when I say harmless music, I mean harmless music. They refused to stock Bruce Springsteen’s album ‘Devils and Dust’ due to its ‘adult nature’. Starbucks therefore are censoring what they sell to not offend their customers! If they become the biggest music retailer in the world (and they have the opportunity for reasons to follow) then musicians will have to refrain from using foul language in order to be sold in their coffee shops! So what happened to arts for arts sake eh?
The 2 main reasons why Starbucks could become the biggest music retailer in the world are as follows:
Firstly, they don’t return unsold merchandise like HMV, Virgin and other traditional retailers do. Record companies simply adore this as once they’ve sold their CD’s to the stores, they know how much money they’ve made (or probably lost) and that in a few months/years down the line, they aren’t going to receive a whole bunch of them back and have to refund the stores at a ‘buy-back-price’.
Secondly, the channels for distribution are staggering. Currently Starbucks have an estimated 13,000+ stores worldwide, compare that to HMV who have a measly 400+ and you can really see why Starbucks have the opportunity to be a tour de force in the Music Industry.
Personally I’m all for innovation within the music industry and just because something isn’t done down the traditional route doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing; look at what Prince is doing for example. Giving away his new album for free on the cover of the Mail on Sunday!
When I first heard that I thought it was a preposterous thing to do (I still think it is regarding his choice of paper, who’d have though Daily Mail readers were Prince fans? With his saucy lyrics and continual references to sex, I would have thought they’d be protesting to stop him entering the country) but when you think about it, he’s using the album as a marketing tool for all the other income streams that he can exploit. If the readers enjoy his new album, they might see him live, buy any number of this back catalogue, buy a Prince T-Shirt, join the Prince fan club etc. Who knows, it’s so crazy it’s almost genius.
The main problem I do have with Starbucks is the potential censorship issue that may become ever increasingly apparent the more records they sell. Quite simply art should be for arts sake, and if Bruce Springsteen wants to swear in his songs then we should let him.
I personally will probably never buy an album in Starbucks as I’m personally not an idiot. I say probably as, you never know, they might sign an exclusive deal to distribute the new Muse or Arctic Monkey’s album then I’ll have to eat my words.
I really fancy a Mocha.
What I’m listening to this week: The Carnival Kids and Arcade Fire
LOOK! A NEW THING!
Click on the link to listen to The Carnival Kids ‘Sitting and Standing’ (right click and select ‘save target as’ if you want to download it)
You can see them at http://www.myspace.com/carnivalkidsyork