'Gimme a decaf vanilla latte - and a CD to go'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

In the battle to get people to buy more music, marketers are going after a new target: your appetite. Now that digital music is widely popular - and can be downloaded legally - companies like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Starbucks are associating eating and drinking with getting hold of your favorite music.

Offerings for consumers that are already available or in the works range from free song downloads (awarded after buying a bottle of soda or a cheeseburger) to the ability to walk into a Starbucks and choose from thousands of songs to make a CD.

The Seattle-based coffee company's foray into digital music is perhaps the most dramatic, including a store dedicated to copying - or burning - CDs, which opened in March in Santa Monica, Calif. Those who stop in don't need to be tech-savvy or even own a computer to take advantage of the service, which will spread later in the spring to 10 regular Starbucks stores in Seattle. The company aims to introduce people to new music in an environment that's more appealing than a chain store.

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Making interacting with digital music easier - through the Starbucks project and free song giveaways - may help online music reach a broader audience, one that wouldn't normally think of downloading. At the very least, consumers, marketers, record labels, and musicians are benefiting from the deals.

"It's kind of a win, win, win [situation]," says David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research, a technology tracking firm.

After a cautious start, record companies are making more of their product available in electronic form. Some analysts say digital music likely won't save the sagging record industry - with downloads and subscription services amounting to about $1.6 billion of the roughly $12 billion industry by 2008, according to Mr. Card. But with the variety of portable players and download services now available, the number of potential partnerships with big brands is still high.

Coca-Cola shopped a partnership with its Sprite brand to a number of online services before settling on Musicmatch. Details of the promotion, which begins this summer, have yet to be announced, but will include free song downloads and even bigger prizes from Musicmatch.com.

"We have for some time been looking for an opportunity to become even more involved with digital music," says Scott Williamson, a Coca-Cola Co. spokesman. "The launch of for-fee, legal service really made it very desirable for us."

Other partnerships are in the works, including one reportedly between McDonald's and Sony, which would give away songs from Sony's new Connect music site, set to launch shortly. Neither company would comment on the deal.

How consumers respond to such deals is unclear. The partnership between Pepsi and iTunes, the download site from Apple, gave away free songs to people who bought Pepsi drinks with special winning codes in the bottle caps. One hundred million songs were up for grabs - winners simply had to take the codes to the iTunes site to obtain their free downloads.

Lots of Pepsi and Sierra Mist fans saved themselves the usual download charge of 99 cents, but the companies have differing takes on the promotion's success. Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently told The Wall Street Journal that redemptions weren't as high as hoped. Pepsi is pleased with the response, says spokeswoman Nicole Bradley. "We have had millions of redemptions and expect more throughout the month of April," she says.

All of the deals highlight one of the criticisms industry-watchers have with the current digital downloading process: With so many online services and related devices, you can't easily play music from one service on the device of another.

Starbucks is getting around that by offering its customers the ability to burn songs and albums. The company opened Hear Music Coffeehouse, its first store dedicated to such listening, last month. While sipping lattes, customers can browse thousands of songs and make their own CDs - paying $6.99 for five songs and $1 for each additional song. Later this spring, the CD-burning service will expand to 10 Starbucks stores in Seattle. "We're the first to secure the rights to do this in the US," says Don MacKinnon, vice president of Starbucks Music and Entertainment.

Soon the company expects it will have as many as 140,000 songs, or the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 albums, available in genres ranging from pop to classical. Knowledgeable staff and in-store features will also offer guidance about new music, something people don't get when buying from a giant retailer, says Mr. MacKinnon.

"We're trying to get people to have the discovery of music be a part of their life again," he says. "But you kind of have to find a part of their routine that you can tie it to."

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