The Music Xray Blog
technology enhanced identification of high potential songs & talent

Starbucks to Stop Selling CDs

Posted by Mike McCready | February 20th, 2015 | No responses

Starbucks, the coffee giant with over 21,000 retail stores throughout the world, will stop stocking and selling physical compact discs, Billboard has confirmed, with the CD clean-out due to start next month.

“We will stop selling physical CDs in our stores at the end of March,” a rep for the Seattle-based company tells Billboard, adding: “Starbucks continually seeks to redefine the experience in our retail stores to meet the evolving needs of our customers. Music will remain a key component of our coffeehouse and retail experience, however we will continue to evolve the format of our music offerings to ensure we’re offering relevant options for our customers.


The decision follows a tough environment for the format, which saw a sales decline of 15 percent in 2014. Music has been one of the few items offered at Starbucks stores that didn’t have to do with coffee, tea or food, the chain’s main revenue streams, and was often at the center of various programs and cultural initiatives.

Is Kenny G Responsible for the Starbucks Frappuccino

Starbucks’ investment in music began when the company acquired the music retailer Hear Music. With the aim of compiling collections to spur music discovery, the wholly-owned subsidiary was first staffed with Starbucks employees in 1999 and saw significant growth over the next five years.

Indeed, a Billboard article from 2006 cites annual album sales of 3.6 million units or approximately $65 million in music revenue. That same year, Starbucks announced a partnership with William Morris to help identify music to feature in their stores. To support the 20 or fewer titles the chain would stock regularly, Hear Music also hosted several performance series based around the coffeehouse singer-songwriter concept and launched a Sirius XM station to play Starbucks-friendy tunes.

Around the mid-aughts, and with much fanfare, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz boasted of a slew of exclusive music releases in partnership with Concord Music Group, including albums by Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morissette, whose Jagged Little Pill acoustic album was initially sold only in Starbucks stores to mark the breakout record’s 10th anniversary in 2005.

Among the albums that Starbucks has given prime positioning to in recent months were: Taylor Swift’s 1989, the Frozen soundtrack and a jazz compilation called Blue Note Blends, released as recently as Feb. 10.

In one interview with Fast Company from 2004, Schultz noted of Starbucks’ jump into music: “The nature of shopping for a CD or a piece of music at a traditional record store is, at its best, a very poor consumer experience. … The Starbucks customer [who] might want to find a Diana Krall album, a Tony Bennett album, or anything that was not being played on the radio, well, they would have a hard time going into Tower Records. Maybe they’d find the album there, but they could not find someone who could talk to them about it. That consumer has disposable income and has had a long history of buying and enjoying music, but they have nowhere to go.”

Other music offerings at Starbucks included themed compilations (like their long-running holiday album series) and single-song downloads, the latter of which are offered via promotional cards that are expected to continue. Digital music will have a presence in the stores of Starbucks’ future, but in what form, sources don’t yet know.



UMG Head Lucian Grainge: Music Business Is on the Mend

Posted by Mike McCready | February 19th, 2015 | 1 Response

Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge projected positivity during his appearance at the Code Media conference in Dana Point, Calif., on Wednesday (Feb. 18).

The music industry’s most powerful executive, per the Billboard Power 100, says the business is transitioning to “a return to growth” and “a return to health,” pointing to successful breakout acts like Sam Smith and monetization through a variety of digital income offers. The scars of piracy, he added, are in the past thanks to a focus on “recapturing the value of our investment.”

Grainge spoke on the second and final day of the confab, which is run by website Recode and gathers a ballroom full of big brains from the tech industry. His appearance followed an announcement made earlier on Wednesday that UMG had signed a partnership agreement with new web video platform Vessel through which the company will exclusively premiere new music videos.

The Vessel license, Grainge said, falls in line with the entrepreneurial spirit of the company and its insistence on premium, rather than ad-funded, services. “I think it’s great,” says Grainge of the rationale in teaming up with Vessel. “We create competition within the market [and it’s] another example of experimenting with our artists for our artists to capitalize on our investment.”

Expectations were tempered, however. “We’ll see how they’ll do,” added Grainge. “But if we’re going to transition to premium subscription, it’s a great part of that journey.”

The UMG chief pleaded ignorance when it came to plans by Apple to align itself with labels (he shot down a report that the company was interested in buying a label) as well as what Jimmy Iovine has in store. Asked about Jay Z’s investment in Scandinavian streaming companu Aspiro, Grainge offered that it was “purely about distribution.” (Shockingly, Grainge pointed out, the CD still dominates in the second and third biggest markets, Japan and Germany.)

In general, he seemed less than enthused about the idea of tech companies coming into the music industry and potentially owning a label or musical archives.

Putting the traditional, transactional model behind us is key to the future, added Grainge. “We want to accelerate paid subciptions and raise income and compensation for everyone. … Ad-funded on demand will not sustain us or the entire ecosystem.”


Super Bowl Commercials Pay Off on Emerging Artists Chart

Posted by Mike McCready | February 18th, 2015 | No responses

As expected, the Feb. 1 Super Bowl sparked major gains for Katy Perry and Missy Elliott, who turned exposure from the halftime show into song purchases. But they (and the New England Patriots) weren’t the night’s only big winners. Three acts — Sleeping at Last, Marc Scibilia and Hundred Waters — break onto the Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart and shine in the national spotlight thanks to memorable tunes in some of that evening’s biggest commercials.

Sleeping at Last, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”



Advice from Artists on How to Overcome Creative Block, Handle Criticism, and Nurture Your Sense of Self-Worth

Posted by Mike McCready | February 18th, 2015 | No responses

Mastering the balance of restriction and imaginative play, or why unbridling your self-worth from your professional success is essential for happiness.

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work,” Chuck Close scoffed. “A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood,” Tchaikovsky admonished. “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too,” Isabel Allende urged. But true as this general sentiment may be, it isn’t always an easy or a livable truth — most creative people do get stuck every once in a while, or at the very least hit the OK plateau.


J.U.S.T.I.C.E League Seeks Topline Writers & Producers and Tweets Links To Their Music Xray Profile

Posted by Mike McCready | February 17th, 2015 | No responses

This is the direct link to the JUSTICE LEAGUE profile on Music Xray:


Pandora vs. BMG’s Court Battle Reveals Long-Term Strategies, Licensing Aims

Posted by Mike McCready | February 17th, 2015 | No responses


A tale, told in the Manhattan court where BMI and Pandora are arguing their cases, illustrates perfectly the angles and lengths that these organizations are willing to go to prove a point. It also shows why the hot issue of whether publishers can withdraw their digital rights from the performance rights organizations’ (PROs) blanket licenses may be a good thing for the largest of music publishers, but not for smaller publishers.

It went something like this. When BMG Chrysalis withdrew from BMI on Jan.

Read more at –

Billboard 200 Chart Moves: Jimmy Fallon Aids 664% Sales Gain for Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’

Posted by Mike McCready | February 16th, 2015 | No responses

On the newest Billboard 200 albums chart, Taylor Swift ruled the list for an 11th nonconsecutive week with 1989 — tying Fearless for Swift’s longest run atop the chart. The Billboard 200 chart ranks the week’s most popular albums based on their overall consumption. That overall unit figure combines pure album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).

Let’s take a closer look at some of the action on the chart:



Chris Martin Talks New 15-Year Gig as Curator of Global Citizen Festival

Posted by Mike McCready | February 15th, 2015 | No responses

As his band Coldplay prepares to release its presumed final studio album, A Head Full of Dreams, later this year, Chris Martin has already lined up his next gig: curator of the Global Citizen Festival, for the next 15 years.

Why so long? Because 2015 marks the establishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a “to-do list” of 17 tasks to end extreme global poverty by the year 2030.

Read more at –


BBC Radio 1 Host Zane Lowe Leaving To Join Apple

Posted by Mike McCready | February 15th, 2015 | No responses

BBC Radio 1 host and DJ Zane Lowe is leaving in March to cross the pond and join Apple in the U.S.

Lowe joined BBC Radio 1 in 2003 and it’s been confirmed his last day will be on March 5. Annie Mac will take over his spot at the station soon after.

“I want to thank everyone at Radio 1 for their support and friendship,” he said in a statement. “The station has allowed me to share incredible music with the country’s best music fans.”


Ten Years Ago, the Digital Download Era Began on the Hot 100

Posted by Mike McCready | February 13th, 2015 | No responses

Perry Julien

On Feb. 12, 2005, digital sales began contributing to the chart, returning balance – and a bigger consumer voice – that has remained since.

It was a landmark move when it was announced and remains one of the key steps in the evolution of the Billboard Hot 100: 10 years ago today, on the chart dated Feb. 12, 2005, digital download sales began contributing to the survey.

“We have eagerly anticipated the moment when we could begin to integrate digital sales into the Hot 100,” wrote then-Billboard director of charts Geoff Mayfield in that week’s print issue.

“It has been a priority for labels, and even some music fans, that we derive more utility from digital sales data.”

“We are absolutely thrilled that the advent of digital downloads brings a viable sales component back to the Hot 100,” added Silvio Pietroluongo, who still oversees the survey (and has since added responsibilites as VP of charts and data development for Billboard and sister publication The Hollywood Reporter).

“Radio stations are programmed to reflect the wants of their listeners, but there is no substitute to measure a song’s true popularity than the purchase by a consumer,” Pietroluongo wrote. “The combination of accurate airplay data with a strong sales base further secures the Hot 100’s place as the definitive U.S. singles chart.”

The addition of paid downloads, which Nielsen Music had begun tracking in 2003, leading Billboard to start the Digital Songs chart that year, restored balance to the Hot 100, which had become heavily airplay-driven as sales of CD and cassette singles had strongly regressed by 2005. The makeover became another milestone in the history of the chart, which began on Aug. 4, 1958 as a scorecard of radio airplay and sales (of 45 RPM vinyl singles). (Earlier pop charts had also tracked jukebox popularity.)

Other noteworthy changes to the Hot 100 would keep coming, including the adoption of Nielsen-based airplay and sales numbers in 1991, replacing the decades-old methodology of lists submitted by stations and retailers. More recently, AOL and Yahoo! radio streaming was added in 2007, with an expanded array of services, including on-demand streaming, joining the mix in 2012. Video streaming, via YouTube, entered into the chart’s formula as of 2013.

As consumers began or continued to digitize their music libraries 10 years ago (on home computers plugged into walls, not yet on phones), certain songs notably benefited from the addition of download data to the Hot 100. While Mario’s “Let Me Love You” remained at No. 1 (for a seventh of nine total weeks on top), Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” jumped 16-9; Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl,” featuring Eve, surged 25-17; and Eminem’s “Like Toy Soldiers” vaulted 60-34.

Of course, download sales were still in the early stages of their rise in 2005. Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” topped the Feb. 12 Digital Songs chart with 36,000 downloads sold (and only the next five songs below sold more than 20,000 apiece). Ten years later, Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!,” featuring Bruno Mars, reigns with 319,000 sold, while 36,000 in sales would place a song at No. 36 on Digital Songs this week. (And, while, 10 years ago, just six songs passed 20,000 in weekly sales, 82 did this week.)

“The addition of digital downloads to the Hot 100,” Pietroluongo summarized 10 years ago, “allows us to once again provide a voice to a constituency that Billboard has always valued: the music consumer.”