The mega-chain is now setting itself apart in another way, as a seller of music CDs. Running counter to the music download trend, the world's biggest coffee chain offers recordings from artists including Alanis Morissette, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Etta James. The CDs are displayed at the cash counter and promoted as impulse purchases.
It's kind of ironic, given that CDs sales have plummeted 22 percent since 1999, a decline unparalleled in the history of the music business, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
But at Starbucks, the link between coffee and music has always been as strong as the pungent liquid it pours. While background music is barely audible upon entering the stores, that's all the better to read by, sit for a while, and order another venti low-fat soy latte. Music sales are just another part of the Starbucks experience.