Thursday, July 26, 2007

Musical Star-bucks?

Joni Mitchell, an artist who has been dear to my heart for more than thirty years, has signed a deal with Starbucks.

From the AP story off her website:

NEW YORK: Joni Mitchell is following the lead of Paul McCartney in joining with the coffee giant Starbucks to release her comeback album.

Hear Music, a record label formed in partnership with Starbucks Corp. and the Concord Music Group, said Wednesday that Mitchell is its second signing. "Shine," her first album of new compositions since 1998, will be released on Sept. 25.

McCartney's album "Memory Almost Full" came out last month and was played relentlessly at Starbucks franchises, where listeners could purchase it with their coffee. The disc has sold 447,000 copies, 45 percent of them in Starbucks stores, the company said.

The new venture has attracted interest from veteran artists both because the music business is collapsing around them, and their fans are much more likely to be spending time in Starbucks these days than in music stores.

Mitchell worked with Hear Music two years ago as it released a disc of favorite Mitchell songs selected by various artists. She had essentially retired from making music and said this project was one of the things that rekindled her interest, said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment.

I have mixed feelings about this. I understand the reasoning and I know that Joni would never give up the most important thing--creative control of her work. And as I pointed out earlier this month, this is a coffee culture generation, so this signing represents a huge opportunity for her music to be heard. But the fact that she's aligned with Starbucks just strikes a bitter chord within me.

I'm not rabidly anti-Starbucks, but I hate the way they have become the McDonalds/Burger King of coffee shops. They are everywhere, peddling their (in my opinion) sub-par coffee and all-too-sickly sweet faux coffee drinks to a nation already overfilled with bad food and sugar. There's a one-block stretch on 7th Avenue in Manhattan that has three Starbucks--one on each corner and one in the middle of the block--all on the same side of the street! And like the other fast food venues, they're infiltrating the rest of the world. I've seen Starbucks in Wellington, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia.

It's hard to imagine Joni Mitchell associating with Starbucks. I think of her as such an independent artist, always going her own way. Starbucks represents the worst of globalization to me, an example of the mass cloning of culture, a forerunner of a Fahrenheit 451 kind of world. Yes, I exaggerate somewhat, but the echos are there.

All this said, I'm sure I will buy the cd, just as I occasionally find myself getting coffee at Starbucks. They are not the evil empire, and I know they do give support to many good causes, both local and global. The times are changing, and I must move with the times or get left behind.

I'll end this with a clip from a 1970 Joni Mitchell performance of "Big Yellow Taxi"and ask a question I've seen in other blogs -- does this mean it's okay to pave paradise and put up a coffee shop?

(For a recent performance of this song by Joni Mitchell which includes a Bob Dylan impersonation, click here.)

1 comment:

Sal and Stef said...

Hey Divah,

I can agree with all of your feelings about our new Starbucks Culture but there is one thing that you really have to put into the equation....

They treat their employees very well.
Full benies available to even part-timer's. How many big Corps can we say that about today? No where near enough.

Belated B'day wishes.


and Sal