McCartney first artist signed to Starbucks' new label
Sir Paul McCartney was introduced today as the first artist signed to Starbucks' new record label. The former Beatle made an appearance...
The Associated Press
SEATTLE — Sir Paul McCartney was introduced today as the first artist signed to Starbucks' new record label.
The former Beatle made an appearance via a video feed from London at the company's annual meeting.
The world's largest specialty coffee retailer announced earlier this month that it was partnering with Concord Music Group to launch the Los Angeles-based Hear Music label.
The McCartney announcement is another big step for Seattle-based 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.
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's iTunes digital music store, and 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.
Earlier today, Chairman Howard Schultz said Starbucks doesn't plan to slow its ambitious growth, despite recently publicized worries about weakening the company's brand.
Schultz also lamented a slide in the company's stock price, and assured shareholders that Starbucks would strive to uphold its efforts at corporate responsibility.
"I'm here to tell you that I believe that there's never been a better time to be a Starbucks shareholder," Schultz told the crowd. "We are building Starbucks for the long term, and I would hope that after 15 years ... you would give us the same trust that you have in the past."
Schultz's comments came as some negative headlines, worries about brand strategy, and investor concerns about operating numbers have knocked about 20 percent off the stock's price since a 52-week high in November.
Schultz also slapped back at critics who have questioned the company's strategy since an internal memo he penned to top executives was leaked to the press a few weeks ago.
In the e-mail, Schultz worried that growing to more than 13,000 stores worldwide had led to "dilution of the experience" customers get in Starbucks stores.
Schultz said those concerns — while not meant for the public — were nothing new as he and other leaders try to map the company's way toward its worldwide goal of 40,000 stores.
"Some speculated that perhaps it was a signal to Wall Street — I wish we were that smart — that perhaps we were going to slow down the growth," Schultz said.
But the company wants to double its size in the next four to five years, and expects net earnings to grow faster than revenue.
On their way into the overflowing meeting hall, investors were greeted by a small group of protesters criticizing the company's stance on unions and its resistance of Ethiopia's attempts to trademark some bean names.
Schultz also hit those critics, who have attempted to combat the good-guy image burnished by Starbucks.
"We welcome debate, we welcome criticism. We just want it to be an honest appraisal of the things we are doing," Schultz said.
Chief Executive Jim Donald said the company is looking for about 20 percent net sales growth, same-store sales growth of between 3-7 percent, and earnings per share of 87-89 cents in 2007.
"We remain focused on building shareholder value through thoughtful and aggressive growth," Donald said.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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