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Starbucks Bails on CD Sales

February 21, 2015 by

starbucks-logo-CDStarbucks recently announced that they will stop selling CDs at the registers of their 21,000+ retail coffee shops around the world. Quoth a Starbucks representative:

“We will stop selling physical CDs in our stores at the end of March. Music will remain a key component of our coffeehouse and retail experience, however we will continue to evolve the format of our music offerings to ensure we’re offering relevant options for our customers. “

Starbucks is moving to the Cloud. In light of this announcement, many pundits at opinion-driven media sites are pronouncing the CD format officially dead. Here are some samples of the apocalyptic language being thrown around:

“It won’t be the day the music died at Starbucks, but it will be the end of the CD.” –USA Today

“The CD was dying. Starbucks just killed it.”

“With the news that Starbucks is going to stop selling these music-filled coasters, I don’t think I’ll ever buy another.” -gizmodo

Really, gizmodo? Don’t get me wrong, this is not a positive development for the CD format. But Starbucks has never been a particularly serious music retailer.

According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in a 2004 Fast Company article, “The nature of shopping for a CD or a piece of music at a traditional record store is, at its best, a very poor consumer experience.” This comment leads me to believe that Mr. Schultz is not a music collector. A recent Billboard article offered the following tidbit, “To support the 20 or fewer titles the chain would stock regularly…” 20 or fewer titles? This is evidence that Starbucks’s strategy was of the quick-hit, immediate-gratification variety. Again, not a collecting model.

Music at Starbucks has always seemed like an afterthought, no more important to their business than the color chosen for the bathroom walls, and less important than the arrangement of the furniture. They made a little money selling music in the predominant format of the time. Now they’re moving on, nothing more. Starbucks coffee is more a commodity purchase than a lifestyle choice these days, anyway. Many Starbuckses now feature a drive-thru window — not a great place to experience music.

Sayonara Starbucks. Serious music fans will actually continue to purchase CDs without your help. And collectors will purchase them. We want to own music in the format that provides the most satisfying sound and the most gratifying collecting experience; physical formats like CD and vinyl are still preeminent in that regard. I don’t care to have McDonalds’s metrosexual cousin recommend music that I might like, anyway.

Oh, and good luck competing with Ashley’s Journey station on her Pandora app.




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