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'Genius' loves Java
Starbucks' unique collaboration with Ray Charles results in eight Grammy awards.
February 14, 2005: 11:23 AM EST
"Genius Loves Company" won eight Grammys on Sunday.
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CNN's Andy Serwer talks about the new business model for music distribution that produced eight Grammy awards.
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Starbucks has found a "genius" idea in something other than coffee -- music.

The Seattle-based coffee house chain's Hear Music division, together with specialty label Concord Records, co-produced, marketed and distributed the late Ray Charles' triple-platinum selling "Genius Loves Company" album, which won eight awards at Sunday's 47th annual Grammy presentation in Los Angeles.

The awards included "Album of the Year" and "Record of the Year" with Norah Jones.

Charles' final album was released last August, two months after his death, and quickly became the best-selling recording of his more than 50-year career.

Starbucks (Research), which operates 5,200 coffee shops, says it has sold more than 580,000 units of the two million copies of Genius Loves Company sold thus far in the United States.

"Everyone at Starbucks Hear Music feels a strong emotional connection to Genius Loves Company," Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, said in a statement Monday. "We truly appreciate the recognition the Recording Academy has given this album and are thrilled by the response the public has shown to this project."

Starbucks is hoping to follow up Genius' success with a collaboration to co-produce a new album by jazz legend Herbie Hancock, expected to be released this fall.

Starbucks executives have said that the company's music initiatives -- such as an in-store CD burning service, partnerships with other music labels to produce exclusive and non-exclusive music, as well as Starbucks' own 24-hour digital music channel in partnership with XM Satellite radio -- are intended to expand the company's footprint beyond the Barista experience.

"Providing our customers with innovative and unique ways to discover and acquire all genres of great music is another way we are enhancing the Starbucks Experience," Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz said in a statement regarding the Hancock collaboration.

Industry watchers say Starbucks' dabbling into music is "intriguing" but something it shouldn't allow to let it get too far off track from its core business.

"It's an OK side show for Starbucks but music isn't what it's known for," said Doug Christopher, analyst with Crowell, Weedon & Co. "Music is something people can get anywhere but you go to Starbucks for great coffee."

"It will help the company get some incremental business but I'll be concerned if Starbucks gets too far into the music arena instead of focusing on its core strength," Christopher said.  Top of page


Starbucks Corporation
Herbie Hancock
Howard Schultz
Ken Lombard
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