Image: Starbucks McCartney
Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks' entertainment division, said he's not worried about customers or baristas succumbing to McCartney overload. "To the contrary, we think everybody's going to be really excited," he said.
updated 6/4/2007 6:01:45 PM ET 2007-06-04T22:01:45

Caffeine junkies who go to Starbucks for their daily fix will get a nonstop dose of Paul McCartney's "Memory Almost Full" on Tuesday as the coffee company's new record label releases its first CD.

Starbucks Corp. estimates that some 6 million people will be among the first to hear the new album as they line up for their lattes in more than 10,000 stores in 29 countries, where it will be playing on a continuous loop throughout the day.

It's a tactic most retailers would not likely attempt "probably for no other reason than not wanting to drive their workers insane," quipped Mike McGuire, an analyst for Gartner Inc.

Still, McGuire said Starbucks has proved to be adept at selling music and thinks it's smart for the company to tap into its vast customer base.

"Let's face it. The energy has kind of gone out of the CD store launch," McGuire said, "so you've got to go where (consumers) are, which is typically buying coffee at a Starbucks."

Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks' entertainment division, said he's not worried about customers or baristas succumbing to McCartney overload. "To the contrary, we think everybody's going to be really excited," he said.

Starbucks co-founded its Hear Music label with Concord Music Group in March. McCartney was in the final stages of recording and mastering his latest set of songs when he signed a one-album deal with Hear Music, becoming the label's first artist.

"Once we heard the album ... we just knew this was a phenomenal record," Lombard said. "It is the most personal and revealing album that Paul has created in his solo career. ... It's such a reflection of his life and his career, I mean, the ups and downs and the recognition of really what a remarkable journey it has been. So it was really for us the perfect fit."

Lombard said he hasn't set any sales targets for "Memory Almost Full" but that he'd be "ecstatic" if it ends up rivaling "Genius Loves Company," an album of Ray Charles duets that Starbucks and Concord co-released in 2004. It won eight Grammy awards the following year and has sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide.

McCartney remains Hear Music's only artist, but Lombard said the label remains on track with previously announced plans to sign two more artists this year and eight next year. Executives remain hopeful that McCartney will sign on for future albums.

"The relationship is going very well between us, and it is our hope that Paul is feeling the same way," Lombard said. "When the time is right, we'll talk about what the next steps are going to be beyond this, but right now our focus is doing everything we can to ensure that 'Memory Almost Full' is an extraordinary success."

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A spokesman for McCartney declined to comment.

In addition to playing and selling the album in its stores, Starbucks got XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. to play McCartney music exclusively on one of its channels Tuesday, putting "Memory Almost Full" in heavy rotation.

Hear Music has also hired crews in London, New York, Berlin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Miami to film footage of McCartney fans wishing him happy birthday for a video tribute that will be broadcast on Internet social-networking sites _ including Google Inc.'s YouTube, Yahoo Inc.'s Yahoo360 and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Live Spaces _ on the artist's 65th birthday June 18.

Most labels lean heavily on artist appearances for CD releases, but Lombard said Monday it was not yet clear exactly what McCartney would be doing the day of the release.

"Paul likes to work in a way that he comes in and provides a great surprise to his fans and to music consumers, and that's an approach we're all on board with," Lombard said.

Hear Music hasn't completely abandoned more traditional marketing methods but is relying a lot less on advance radio play and music reviews ahead of the release of "Memory Almost Full."

The album will be sold at most Starbucks stores worldwide, in all major music retailers, and on Apple Inc.'s iTunes online store, making it the first of McCartney's 21 solo albums to be released digitally.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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