Starbucks, which rarely carries Latin music in its stores, has partnered with Latin indie label Nacional Records to release an exclusive compilation of Latin alternative music. "Café con Música" (Coffee With Music) will be available only at Starbucks stores nationwide beginning June 19.
The 16-track set -- in both Spanish and English -- features music by a broad roster of Nacional acts, ranging from Colombian fusion veterans Aterciopelados to up and comers Diego García and rapper Ana Tijoux to electronic DJs Nortec Collective.
Having Starbucks put its faith in that music, says Nacional president Tomas Cookman, "I see it as another showing of the Latinization of America […] We knew right away that they liked the music. It's something they had never done before. And we did it together."
Starbucks has been a tough nut to crack for Latin labels, who say they routinely pitch albums to the company, but have had little luck in securing distribution through the coffee chain. Although it's put out Brazilian music in the past, Starbucks' last Spanish-language album was a compilation by iconic tropical label Fania Records, released via the coffee chain in 2009.
In this case, the deal came through Howard Gabriel, Senior VP of label management for Red, which distributes Nacional Records.
"I had set up a meeting [with Starbucks] to go over our new releases and potential titles that I call 'starbuck-ing,'" says Gabriel, referring to titles that he thinks will work for Starbucks. "And I said to Tomas, 'I would love to take a Latin compilation to Starbucks. I think the market needs it.'"
Timothy Jones, Starbucks' program manager and the man who oversees the creation of compilations for the company, agreed.
"We've created compilations devoted to Brazilian music and salsa, among many other genres," he told Billboard. "When Nacional Records reached out to us, suggesting we collaborate on a collection devoted to contemporary Latin artists, it felt like a great fit. They provided us with literally a box of their CDs to go through and, working with Tomas Cookman, we came up with exciting selections we think will appeal to Starbucks customers."
Jones and Cookman worked closely together not only in the track selection but also in the graphic design.
Key to closing the deal, says Gabriel, was how Nacional and Red could chip in to market the album via social networking and other means. Also key was the fact that all titles come from Nacional, and therefore clearances were not an issue.
"It's important for all my titles to be successful in Starbucks," says Gabriel, whose recent Starbucks titles include the new Bonnie Raitt album.
Gabriel and Cookman say they will ship between 40,000 to 50,000 copies of Café con Musica to Starbucks, a huge number for an indie title of Latin alternative music.
"It's further justification that we're not crazy," says Cookman. "There is a market for this."