Starbucks Will Stop Selling CDs in March

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 02.20.15 in News

Almost 20 years after Starbucks first started selling CDs, the coffee giant is about to toss out the format like so many used filters. The company’s 21,000 retail stores worldwide will stop selling physical CDs through the end of March, spokesperson Maggie Jantzen tells Wondering Sound. That confirms what unnamed sources first told Billboard.

“We’re always looking to redefine the experience in our retail stores to meet the evolving needs of our customers,” Jantzen says. “Music has been and will continue to be a key component of the coffeehouse experience in a variety of formats.” She adds that the company has some upcoming developments it isn’t yet ready to announce.

Starbucks began offering its first CD, a jazz compilation titled Blue Note Blend, on April Fool’s Day in 1995. The Seattle-based chain opened up a music-oriented subsidiary, Hear Music, in 1999. By 2006, Starbucks reportedly sold 3.6 million albums, representing about $65 million in revenue. The retailer has stocked 250 original CDs, according to its website, such as Valentine’s Day compilation Sweetheart 2005. Performers featured on its shelves have ranged from John Lennon and Aretha Franklin to Taylor Swift and John Legend.

The CD format has been in decline. American sales of new CD albums fell 15 percent last year, according to Nielsen Music, to 141 million units (out of 257 million album sales overall). While that’s still more than the 107 million digital album sales in 2014, it’s down 81 percent from the CD sales peak of 730 million in 2000. Earlier this year, Hyundai said it would start eliminating CD players from its 2016 car models. The cupholder for that latte is still safe for now.

RIAA CD shipments data 1995-2013

CD shipments from 1995-2013 (Source: RIAA)