More Clouds In Carly’s Coffee

After issuing an initial statement regarding Carly Simon’s lawsuit against the coffee company, Starbucks has done a bit more talking, explaining that the singer-songwriter’s suit isn’t worth a hill of beans.

In 2007 Simon signed a deal with Starbucks’ label Hear Music to release her 2008 album This Kind of Love and she isn’t too pleased with the results. Simon told the New York Times the company had initially talked about an advance of $75,000 to $1 million but the final contract was signed with an advance of $575,000. She had already spent $100,000 on recording sessions.

Days before the album’s April 29, 2008 release, Starbucks transferred control of its music department from Hear Music to a partner, Concord Music Group. Simon blames this move on not getting proper promotion and distribution.

“That had zero impact [on the disappointing sales],” Starbucks’ vice president of brand content Chris Bruzzo told Rolling Stone. “Imagine all the effort that they go through to getting CDs out to stores, and the market time, and the PR plans that go into launching something like that. Most of that work was not done in the last couple of days. There was months of work that led up to that and everything from carrying it in our stores.”

Bruzzo added that the company promoting the album by putting out a full-page ad in the New York Times and setting up numerous PR events.

Photo: AP Photo

And what about Simon’s claims that the album wasn’t available in “a substantial number”? The singer said that it wasn’t stocked in some Starbucks locations she visited, after being promised her CD would be located next to the cash register.

“We offered Carly Simon CDs in every store that we offered Paul McCartney CDs,” Bruzzo told RS. “We put This Kind of Love into every store that sells music, which is almost every one of our stores. We’re talking about more than 7,000 stores had a supply of Carly Simon CD at launch.”

Bruzzo said that Starbucks even kept the album in stock for an extra six weeks in select markets after Simon’s team requested an extension in New York and Boston.

“We’re very disappointed that Carly has decided to file this suit because we worked very hard and put a lot of time, and energy, and effort from the music team and thousands of stores behind giving this album its best shot in finding its audience,” Bruzzo told RS.

Simon is also upset that the chain slapped discount stickers on her album. “By doing so, Starbucks stigmatized Ms. Simon’s album as an album that could not be sold at full price,” the lawsuit alleges.

Photo: AP Photo

Bruzzo told the Seattle Times that Simon’s album, in addition to CDs from Sonic Youth, were marked down when the coffee chain scaled down its in-store music from dozens of artists to about four per store. The paper noted “they were not discounted during the crucial promotional periods for the albums.”

Simon’s lawsuit is seeking $5 million to $10 million from Starbucks, alleging “concealment of material facts,” “tortious interference” with her her contract, and “unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices,” according to the NY Times.

The album, which was not sold exclusively at Starbucks, has sold 124,000 copies to date.

“Unfortunately, sales continued to lag as the title received tepid response from music consumers,” Starbucks said in a statement. “Other retailers faced the same fate with this CD.”

Simon is set to release another album this month on her son’s label, Iris Records.

What do you think – does Simon have a case? She has a lot to prove, especially because the album wasn’t sold exclusively at Starbucks. The coffee giant can always blame poor sales on the economy. People may not be buying as much fancypants coffee, or if they’re going to splurge, they might just pick up their latte and not drop the extra cash on an album.

Click here for the Rolling Stone article.

Click here for the New York Times article.

Click here for the Seattle Times article.