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Fast Talk: Coffee Maker Brews Fans

Ken Lombard

President, Starbucks Entertainment
Seattle, Washington

Ken Lombard, 52, is signing up artists for Starbucks's own record label, Hear Music, which will use the company's stores as a significant distribution channel. The first artist to commit: Paul McCartney.

"The shift from traditional record stores to big-box retailers for CD sales, and the shift away from radio have limited how consumers discover new music. That has made it harder for new artists to build a career and for legendary acts to reach their fans.

Starbucks has a unique set of assets with more than 13,000 stores worldwide and 44 million customers per week, the most loyal of which visit as many as 18 times a month. That's a tremendous platform for artists. Having Paul McCartney's next album demonstrates how we can present even the most successful recording artist of all time with unique opportunities. Madeleine Peyroux's album Careless Love is an excellent example of Starbucks's impact on emerging talent. Her album was released nationally in September 2004 [not in Starbucks]. We introduced it to our customers six months later. After one week, the album hit No. 81 on the Billboard chart, her highest chart ranking at the time. Starbucks sales more than doubled what traditional retailers sold during that week."

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.