I’ll admit it: I’ve bought a CD once or twice with a tall Americano. Usually it was some retro comp (alt-rock, jazz or blues) but never a proper release by a single artist. But it’s been a while.
I’ve often wondered who else impulse-bought those CDs at the counter. Now I know the answer: no one. At least not any more.
At one point, Starbucks was one of the music industry’s secret weapons. The chain’s 21,000-ish stores sold millions of discs every year, a stealthy way to fatten the bottom line. Did you ever see a Starbucks-racked CD sell for the same price as what you saw in a record store? Nope. In 2006, Starbucks moved 3.6 million CDs worth $65 million USD. Not bad.
Most stores stocked a maximum of 20 titles at any one time, so managing inventory wasn’t a big deal. But there was the whole Hear Music initiative which saw boutiques pop up in places like mega bookstores. There was a label called Concord Music Group that released bespoke discs from artists like Paul McCartney and Alanis Morissette, not to mention a bunch of different Christmas/holiday discs each year. Some stores even held performance nights with live artists. And let’s not forget that Starbucks launched their own SiriusXM coffeehouse channel to push the kind of music you’d hear in their stores.
In other words, music was a very important part of the Starbucks experience. Now, though, a chunk of that experience will disappear when the company will store selling CDs at the checkout on March 1. We the demand for CDs continuing to fall, it’s just not worth it.
Where are the soccer moms going to buy their copies of the Frozen soundtrack for little Dakota to listen to while she’s been ferried to dance class in the mini-van? Wal-Mart, I guess.