McCartney becomes 1st artist signed to new Starbucks label

Paul McCartney was introduced as the first artist signed to Starbucks Corp.'s new record label, lending an iconic nameplate to the coffeehouse giant's latest entertainment venture.

The former Beatle, who made an appearance Wednesday over a video feed from London at the company's annual meeting, said he expects to release his next album on Starbucks' new Hear Music label in early June.

McCartney said he was impressed with Hear Music's push to use Starbucks' 13,500 retail outlets as part of its sales plan. He also praised the company's dedication.

"For me, the great thing is the commitment and the passion and the love of music, which as an artist is good to see," he said.

The company said McCartney was signing a one-album deal with Hear Music, the partnership between Seattle-based Starbucks and Concord Music Group announced last week. Financial terms were not disclosed.

McCartney's rights to his previous song catalog are not part of the deal with Starbucks, said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks' entertainment unit. McCartney most recently released records through EMI Group PLC.

The label plans to sell albums through traditional and digital music outlets, with no advance sales and no additional content for Starbucks stores.

Rather than overshadowing the next artists to join the label, McCartney could serve as an "anchor" artist who may help sway other musicians to the label, said Geoff Mayfield, a senior analyst for Billboard magazine.

"I can't criticize them for choosing a Beatle to start their enterprise," Mayfield said.

The McCartney announcement is another big step for Starbucks' attempts to spin part of its consumer appeal into the entertainment business.

The coffeehouse chain already has produced and sold some albums, markets books, and helped develop a feature-length movie. Lombard said Starbucks Entertainment is currently profitable.

Hear Music has been used as a brand on other releases developed for sale in Starbucks stores. The coffee giant also has a branded page on Apple Inc.'s iTunes digital music store, and it has a handful of hybrid music-and-coffee stores that allow customers to burn tracks to CDs.

Concord, which controls several other labels, helped Starbucks sell the Grammy-winning "Genius Loves Company," an album of Ray Charles duets, reports AP.

Lombard said Hear Music has been in talks with other artists and expects to sign two more this year and another eight next year.

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