Starbucks: the McDonalds of coffee, music, books, and movies

starbucks sign

Not only has Starbucks – the once tiny Pike Place Market-based, coffee-loving first mate of Moby Dick-inspired coffee roaster – grown into a vertically-integrated retail behemoth unaffectionately referred to as the McDonalds of coffee, so too have its aims of total market domination been extended into the spheres of music, movies, and books.

Starbucks is solidifying its expansion into the entertainment business with the launch of a record label, the global specialty coffee retailer announced Monday.

Starbucks said it will partner with Concord Music Group, which helped the coffee giant successfully sell the posthumous Ray Charles release Genius Loves Company, for its new Hear Music label, which will be based in Los Angeles.

The coffee chain’s new Hear Music label will sign both emerging and established artists. Already, there are rumours that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney will be among the first.The coffee chain’s new Hear Music
label will sign both emerging and established artists. Already, there are rumours that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney will be among the first.

The new label will sign emerging and established artists and musicians and sell records both in Starbucks and other retail stores.


While big box music retailers like HMV and Virgin megastores have suffered through a massive declines in CD sales in recent years, Starbucks has capitalized on its captive, caffeine-craving weekly audience of 44 million customers and successfully positioned itself as a purveyor of both frappuccinos and rare Rolling Stones releases.

Early on, the coffee chain made astute the move to connect its brand with the inoffensive, if almost banal, sounds of ‘smooth jazz’ and blues music. Starbucks forged a smart partnership with the legendary Blue Note Jazz label, concocted a ‘Blue Note Blend’ of its coffees, and released various jazz compilations and works by acclaimed jazz artists like Herbie Hancock. Since then, they’ve gone on to sell music by everyone from Ray Charles and Alanis Morrissette to the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

As reports, last year Starbucks also got involved in selling movies and books, “signing a deal to jointly market and distribute the family-friendly spelling bee drama Akeelah and the Bee and offering bestselling author Mitch Albom’s novel One More Day at its counters.

The ‘McDonalds of coffee’ tag may fast becoming true. In many North American cities, Starbucks stores are as pervasive and ubiquitous as the ‘golden arches’ and, with its saccharine stranglehold on its customers well established, the company can now begin its fast encroachment into the remaining areas of its customers’ passing fancies and ‘entertainment’ passions.

And if tabloid music heavyweights like Paul McCartney decide to lend their considerable revenue-earning potential to the chain’s fledgling Hear Music label, Starbucks will be in an excellent position to sing the sweet sounds of profit, while other major music retailers and labels continue their struggle to survive. Major label dinosaurs take note – it might be time to get into the coffee business.

Tags: stores | specialty | rumours | retail | record label | ray charles | musicians | music | McDonalds | Los Angeles | launch | label | herbie hacock | hear music | global | ex-Beatle | established | entertainment | emerging | coffee | CHAIN | business | Bob Dylan | artists | Starbucks | Paul McCartney | culturite | Culture | Akeelah


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