CDs On Caffeine

Despite traditional record retailers’ hard feelings, Starbucks is taking a step further into the music business.

The coffee company is launching the “Hear Music Debut” CD series, which aims to “uniquely parlay [Starbucks’] marketing and distribution strength to break new artists,” according to Starbucks entertainment prexy Ken Lombard.

The first CD in the series will be a joint release with Lava Records‘ all-female quintet Antigone Rising. The live acoustic album, titled From The Ground Up, will be sold for $12.95 exclusively in more than 4,400 U.S. Starbucks coffee shops and Starbucks Web sites beginning May 11th. It will be the band’s first major label release.

The album will be supported by in-store promotion and Starbucks’ Hear Music channel on XM Satellite Radio, according to Reuters. Antigone Rising will also receive exposure on Starbucks’ in-flight channel on United Airlines.

The coffee company is reportedly in discussions with labels for other artist releases, as well.

In the past, Hear Music – a division of Starbucks – partnered with Concord Records on Ray Charles’ Grammy Winning Genius Loves Company, which has sold more than 2.7 million copies since last September, according to Reuters. Nearly 25 percent of those were reportedly sold in Starbucks outlets.

The company has also issued releases from BeBe Winans, Tina Turner and others.

“We have demonstrated that we can effectively leverage our unique marketing and distribution assets as well as our customer base to support and establish artists,” Lombard said.

However, Starbucks’ music business ventures have recently earned the wrath of traditional retailers, who feel their customers look to them to have hot new releases on hand ASAP. Some are livid over the upcoming acoustic version of Alanis Morissette‘s Jagged Little Pill, which will be sold exclusively in North American Starbucks shops in the first six weeks of its June 13th release.

Starbucks also drew ire recently when a number of its stores sold copies of Beck‘s new album, Guero, before its street date.