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May 25, 2006

Starbucks shuts down its Hear Music kiosks

UPDATED (May 26, 2006) | The Seattle Times is reporting Starbucks "has pulled them [CD-burning kiosks] out of all but five locations in each city and will not install them in future coffee stores."

According to this Austin American-Statesman article (reg. req'd), Starbucks has decided to pull its CD-burning kiosks from its Austin and Seattle stores. Can’t say I’m surprised. Living in Austin and frequenting Starbucks a couple times per week, I’ve NEVER seen anyone actually burn a CD using the kiosk. Seen lots of college kids curled up reading a textbook while listening to tunes from the kiosk though.

In an email exchange with the Statesman reporter, I shared the following thoughts about why the Hear Music Media Bars weren’t working out as planned:

Starbucks failed to solve a consumer problem with their CD-burning stations like they solved the problem of weak, flavorless coffee. Before Starbucks, coffee was a hot, brown liquid meant to be a caffeine delivery vehicle more than a drink that actually tasted good. Starbucks changed all that. Thanks to Starbucks, it is far easier for us to find better tasting coffee that is meant to be enjoyed more than just endured.
Starbucks has been successful because it made the coffee experience uncommonly better. So uncommonly better that we gladly pay a premium for it. Using that mindset, the Starbucks CD-burning stations have been unsuccessful because they failed to make the music download experience uncommonly better. It’s far easier for us to download music using our own computers than it is using the Starbucks CD-burning kiosk.
This CD-burning venture was doomed to fail from the start. Launching the service without the ability for customers to download music directly to their mp3 player was a major misstep. Starbucks may have attained success if they launched the service with mp3 downloads directly to a customer’s mp3 player. As a Starbucks consumer, I would be more apt to enjoy a latte while using their wi-fi service to download music from iTunes directly to my laptop than to sit down at the Hear Music kiosk, navigate through the clunky interface, and burn a music CD.


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» Hear Music from New Persuasion
It is no shock to anyone who knows me well that I love Starbucks. When I think coffee, I think Starbucks. It has become so engrained in my weekly routine that I rarely sit back to think about how often [Read More]

» OK, this one I predicted from Here's The Thing
Yeah, it's only my ego that wants to point this out. But hey, it's my blog dammit! John Moore chronicles the end of the Starbucks Music Kiosks. My post from last year. If you do want a cool music option, [Read More]


The Starbucks near my home don't have free wifi-is this a nation wide thing? If so, why on earth not??

I'm still waiting for Apple to slap an Airport card in an iPod so I can download directly from the iTunes music store.

Your observation on the laptop vs. clunky kiosk is dead on. The other big point that you didn't dive into are the terrible economics of the CD burning kiosks. I helped start a few digital media venturesover the last few years and I've been deep in the economics of licensing burnable content from the labels. The economics of the kiosks are completely upside down. (even iTunes the music store (not iPods) can't make more than a few pennies per track) The really sad story is that this endeavor would have, at best, helped sell coffee as a major loss leader. The good news is at least the project failed fast.

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