SEATTLE - Caffeine junkies who go to Starbucks for their daily fix will get a nonstop dose of Paul McCartney's "Memory Almost Full" on Tuesday as the coffee company's new record label releases its first CD.
Starbucks Corp. estimates that some 6 million people will be among the first to hear the new album as they line up for their lattes in more than 10,000 stores in 29 countries, where it will be playing on continuous loop throughout the day.
It's a tactic most retailers would not likely attempt "probably for no other reason than not wanting to drive their workers insane," quipped Mike McGuire, a media analyst for Gartner Inc.
Still, McGuire said Starbucks has proved to be adept at selling music and thinks it's smart for the company to tap into its vast customer base.
"Let's face it. The energy has kind of gone out of the CD store launch," McGuire said, "so you've got to go where (consumers) are, which is typically buying coffee at a Starbucks."
Starbucks co-founded its Hear Music label with Concord Music Group in March. McCartney was in the final stages of recording and mastering his latest set of songs when he signed a one-album deal with Hear Music, becoming the label's first artist.
"Once we heard the album ... we just knew this was a phenomenal record," said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks' entertainment division. "It's such a reflection of his life and his career, I mean, the ups and downs and the recognition of really what a remarkable journey it has been. So it was really for us the perfect fit."
Lombard said he hasn't set any sales targets for "Memory Almost Full" but that he'd be ecstatic if it ends up rivaling "Genius Loves Company," an album of Ray Charles duets that Starbucks helped sell when Concord released it in 2004. It won eight Grammy awards the following year and has sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide.
McCartney remains Hear Music's only artist, but Lombard said the label plans to sign two more artists this year and eight next year. Executives remain hopeful that McCartney will sign on for future albums.
"The relationship is going very well between us, and it is our hope that Paul is feeling the same way," Lombard said. "When the time is right, we'll talk about what the next steps are going to be beyond this, but right now our focus is doing everything we can to ensure that 'Memory Almost Full' is an extraordinary success."
A spokesman for McCartney declined to comment.
The album will be sold at most Starbucks stores worldwide, in all major music retailers, and on Apple Inc.'s iTunes online music store, making it the first of McCartney's 21 solo albums to be released digitally.