Music, Coffee, Digital Life

“These are a few of my favourite things…”

I keep thing that music and coffee have a lot to do with one another. I’m also a wannabe geek. So I’m quite interested in the recently-announced Apple/Starbucks partnership to distribute music via wireless connections.

Apple – iTunes – Starbucks

Haven’t read much discussion about this deal yet. After all, the iPod touch is generating a lot more buzz. But I think this partnership can lead to something.

Makes a lot of sense, this deal. Brand recognition. Co-branding. New avenues for music distribution. “Physical locations” and computer networks. Music discovery through exposure. Impulsive buying. Selling an ambiance.

As it so happens, I’ve been a fan of many Apple products. I’m not a total Apple fanboy. And I’m certainly not an “unconditional” of the company. But I do tend to be overly enthusiastic about some products they release and the approach they’re taking. I did get contracts as a campus representative for Apple about ten years ago. And I have high hopes for the company. So, I think this can be a good thing for Apple and I’m looking forward to that, even if it doesn’t change anything in my life.

I’m also an ethnomusicologist and a musician. I care about people’s enjoyment of music. And I care about musicians making a living through their musical activities. Because this can mean increased music sales, “I’m all for it.” Of course, I have some reservations about the way the iTunes music store works. But the basic principle makes a lot of sense and is pretty much musician-friendly.

I care a lot about cafés. I do think they’re important locations for a lot of things to happen. I even take notes about what I think the ideal café would be for me. And I celebrate the opening of new cafés where I live. So I think my love for cafés is well-served by an association with music. I had been thinking about a similar system for a while now, thinking that cafés would be great places to “diffuse” music. So I can’t complain that this dream I had is being fulfilled.

The only thing is, I have a thing about Starbucks. Not that I think it’s the most evil company in the world. But I dislike a lot of the effects they’ve had on the world of coffee. Some of their business tactics are very close to bullying so I enjoy it when they lose to a café owner. I also find the quality of their coffee to be subpar. Contrary to what many people in the United States seem to feel, I don’t get the impression that Starbucks increased my ability to get quality coffee. In fact, because of Starbucks and other café chains, I feel that coffee has often decreased in quality and certainly in diversity since Starbucks started its “worldwide” expansion. I’m not anti-globalisation. But I’m against the bulldozing of café culture.

Not to mention that I prefer local initiatives to provide free WiFi connections to local communities to T-Mobile’s restrictive business model.

So, though the partnership between the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store and Starbucks should fill me with joy, I feel sad that Starbucks had to be the target of this deal. It makes a lot of sense and I understand Apple couldn’t have a more appropriate partner in the deal. But I would prefer a move toward broad partnerships across a wide range of people. Who knows, maybe this will spark a movement by online music distribution system (besides iTunes), wireless providers (besides T-Mobile), and cafés (besides Starbucks) to connect music listening and café-going in new ways.

It’s not the whole world that’s consolidating in a few multinational conglomerates.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

7 responses to “Music, Coffee, Digital Life

  • enkerli

    Merci, je me sens tout honoré!

  • Colourful Vision

    There we go.. U are now included in my very selective ”Spectrum”..loll Hope u like yellow..

    Colourful V.

  • Colourful Vision

    Gees…Disparate u so funny…I believe u very much so when you say your blogroll is not exclusive…hahah

  • enkerli

    CV,
    Merci pour ton commentaire!
    Quand les gens me demandent sur quoi je blogue, je leur réponds que le titre de mon blogues a sa raison d’être. Mes intérêts sont plutôt variés.
    Je n’ai jamais été fumeur mais j’ai vécu avec des fumeurs. J’apprécie beaucoup plus le café quand il n’y a pas de cigarette pour masquer ses arômes!
    Mon blogroll n’est pas sélectif. J’ai ajouté ton blogue même si je ne crois pas te connaître…

  • Colourful Vision

    Quant à être disparate j’aime ça de même!! I used to like coffee more when I was a smoker…BYW I never seen a blogroll list so long in my life…Can I ping it on my blog…I thought this was so funny cause I just started blogging and my list is very short…loll!!

    So long…

    Colourful V.

  • enkerli

    I know what you mean. And it’s an important point.
    But you do have a choice, in such a case. Either as a musician or as a music listener. As a musician, you can use different methods to get your music on iTunes and/or on Starbucks. Sounds to me like this might mean that all music at those Starbucks locations will come from iTunes. Which does mean a decrease in the number of independent labels potentially represented, but Starbucks is not currently pushing that “indie” a roster, AFAICT. You can also choose not to participate in the commodification of music.
    As a music-listener… You can either use the convenience of buying the track directly in the store. Or purchase it through other stores if the track is available elsewhere. Or keep the reference to the track and find that track again at some other time. Or look for information about the musicians playing it and attend performances involving them.
    The point here is not about replacing one old model with another restrictive model. It’s about getting “creative” in terms of business models. With the great “2007 Fall of DRM” and a number of initiatives by musicians, labels, and startups, a number of things can happen.
    I’m hopeful.

  • RS

    My feelings on this are so intense that it probably argues for a blog post of my own…but until I can see it in action I will hold my tongue.

    Except that I am forced (I deleted pages of material, BTW) to say one key thing: I hate not having a choice.

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