Starbucks Making Moves: First Macca, then Radiohead (maybe?!?)

First it was Paul McCartney signing with Starbucks to distribute his new records, then news came that Radiohead might be following suit. (that has since been denied by the band) It's an interesting trend and one that I think has merit. To me, the artists aren't so much signing up with a new label, as they are signing up to be distributed and therefore "co-branded" by Starbucks. 

As Lenore Skenazy wrote this week Starbucks, even through some of it's missteps, is still the "third place" we all seek. Its the place we linger, she says. I agree. I look around (even in my own family) and I see those white cups as status symbols. You have the fancy diaper bag, the Range Rover, the over-sized sunglasses, and the white cup. Soon, they'll have Radiohead. What's not to like if you're the artist? You get this great association with a solid, if not down-right great brand. Under the old system, your records would sell good and you'd have a following, but the closest the women I described above (Range Rover, over-sized sunglasses, etc) ever would get to your records was either if one of them hit the radio airwaves, they had a younger, cooler, more hipster sibling, or if they were at a party. Now, they're going to walk up to the cash registers with their Starbucks card, buy a Camel Macciado maybe a muffin, and probably grab your record. Your fans will still get the record. There still will be folks downloading your stuff, but now your audience has a much wider reach. As demonstrated by bands like Wilco, you don't so much need a label for the production reasons, as you do a place and system for distribution. More and more of that is moving online, but having a retail operation is very helpful. Just by going into a Starbucks, you declare to the world that you have disposable income. Why else would you pay 4 bucks for a cup of coffee? So, to me, you are a great fit for a targeted record buyer.

Starbucks thinks (as evidence by the Schultz Memo) that they're in trouble with their brand, but I would guess that many American's think that it's still riding high. Adding the record label, and the right artists, will go a long way towards a bright future. What's next? "Fill-er-up Stations" for your ipod? How about some free wi-fi first, then we can get to the rest of that stuff.

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