“Does anyone even buy CDs anymore?” I was asked a few months ago when a friend had seen me contemplating buying the Michael Bublé holiday album while waiting in line at Starbucks. Well, apparently not.
On February 19, Billboard confirmed that Starbucks would stop selling physical CDs in its retail locations. This took effect on March 1, and the CD clean out is already in action. Why? Starbucks said they wanted to keep up with the evolving nature of the music industry. Long story short, CDs just don’t sell like they used to. In 2006, Starbucks sold approximately 3.2 million CDs, which brought in over $65 million in revenue. Eight years later, in 2014, Billboard reported that CD sales — not just in Starbucks locations, but also across the disc industry — had experienced a 15 percent decline. A cost-benefit analysis would show that it just would not be worth it for the coffee chain and giant to continue including CDs as part of its inventory.
Music will remain a key component of Starbucks, a unique aspect of a commercialized coffee chain that makes it stand out from other companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts and The Coffee Bean. However, Starbucks is shifting music platforms, choosing one that is more digitally oriented to keep up with music giants such as Spotify and Pandora. Starbucks will continue selecting unique new sounds and presenting them to Starbucks enthusiasts via its “Pick of the Week” free music offerings.
You may be asking, so what? Well, while this news is of economic significance, Starbucks’ announcement to discontinue selling CDs more importantly acknowledges the demise of a dying trend. Starbucks no longer sells CDs, and MacBook Pro’s no longer come with CD drives. CD players are a thing of the past. These trends illustrate the evolving nature of not only the music industry but also of the platforms in which music and other mediums of art are delivered to its audiences.
While music is becoming increasingly digitally based, some retail giants have been experiencing a rather counterintuitive phenomenon. Within the past few years, there has been a spike in demand for vinyl records. Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods and Hot Topic — a diversified range of stores — have been catering to the growing niche group that consists mainly of millennials. Starbucks may or may not jump on this bandwagon. For the interim, selling vinyl records could generate some profit from the hipsters who are enamored by large spinning discs. But it is certainly not a good investment in the long run, as vinyl records and vinyl record players — much older than CDs, and much less portable — do not have a promising future.
While you will no longer be able to find a Tony Bennett album in one of their 21,000 retail locations, Starbucks will continue to make free music downloads available for you to enjoy with your caffeinated cup of choice.