Starbucks opening digital download coffeehouses

We have tried to keep our readers informed about changes in the ways recorded music is distributed, as it is something that we think will be of interest to both consumers and producers of bluegrass music. The growth of the digital download phenomenon is one area that has been discussed on Bluegrass Today, and a recent announcement by Starbucks concerning their Hear Music Coffeehouses may involve another emerging trend to watch.

Initially, Hear Music was intended to offer compilation CDs and a wide variety of recorded music for sale in Starbucks retail outlets – something they will continue to do. The recent announcement, however, concerns two new coffeehouses – one in San Antonio and the other in Miami – that will feature over one million audio tracks which can be purchased and burned onto a custom CD on site. The focus here will be to have fewer manufactured CD titles for ready sale, and many more individual tracks for custom burning.

It appears that Starbucks intends to create a hard copy equivalent to the digital download sites. Pricing is designed to be competitive with popular download sites such as Apple’s iTunes Music Store, with burned CDs selling for $8.99 with seven tracks, and $.99 each for additional tracks. No plans have been announced to make downloading of tracks available for iPods or other portable players.

The San Antonio location opened on December 19 and the Miami coffeehouse in South Beach is expected to open in the next few weeks.

How this may affect the sales of bluegrass music and recordings by bluegrass artists remains to be seen, but since Hear Music locations allow users to listen before they burn, those who have long held that bluegrass would fare well in the market if only more people were exposed to it may see this as a potential opening.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.