Earlier this year, Starbucks entered a round of damage control when an email from chairman Howard Schultz to CEO Jim Donald leaked to the web. It was critical of what the Starbucks brand and stores have become, in what Schultz feels was a sacrifice of the company’s unique niche on the marketplace to accommodate rapid growth and expansion. Whatever his feelings are on the matter, Starbucks shows no signs of slowing down, with their development of the Starbucks Entertainment brand expanding the company’s vision into CDs, DVDs and books. I’m not quite sure what a Starbucks curated or approved media product is supposed to mean other than appealing to most amount of people possible. I guess there is some kind of vague lifestyle association—aging hipsters? cool parents?—but it’s broad enough that both Dean Martin and Pearl Jam can be purchased with your grande latte at their stores.
Off The Clock Vol 1: Up and Coming Artists from Starbucks is an attempt to enhance brand recognition by getting using music by actual Starbucks employees. Hey, that guy who makes your espresso every day? He’s in a band. Remember when you were in a band too? It’s a cute idea but the ultimate compilation is as limp as you might expect a coffee shop compilation to be. The disc is filled with more digestible and far less famous versions of bands you already know. Like Cat Power? Here’s Carla Escoto. Like The Killers? Here’s Sweethearts. Want some ridiculously cliched dinner party jazz? Luma will fit the bill. Hell, there’s even a band called Folkloriate for godsakes and they sound exactly what you think they might sound like.
All said, if you’re buying music at the same time as you buy your coffee, you deserve what you get.