Inside Move: Stones, Crow, Ma sales up

Starbucks' 'Artist's Choice' series energized

Even though she doesn’t sing a note on it, Sheryl Crow’s latest album has sold about 10,000 copies since its release last Tuesday.

But it won’t register a blip on the pop charts, because it is available primarily in Starbucks stores, which do not report data to SoundScan, the company that calculates music sales.

The album is the fifth release in Starbucks’ “Artist’s Choice” series, where musicians pick their favorite songs. In the liner notes, they discuss how the tunes influenced them.

A Tony Bennett CD will come out on May 28, and a Johnny Cash set is in the works. They will join CDs from the Rolling Stones, Lucinda Williams, Ray Charles and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who kicked off the series in February 2002.

Ma’s leads the pack with sales of 70,000 CDs to date, but the Stones have sold just under 50,000 units since their CD went on sale March 19, said Don MacKinnon, vice president of music and entertainment at Starbucks.

The CDs are produced by Hear Music, a Starbucks-owned firm that compiles CDs for the coffee chain and also operates four retail stores in Seattle and California. The Crow CD was distributed by the special markets division of Universal Music Group, to which Crow is signed.

Crow’s selections veer towards classics from fellow singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Carole King, Elton John and Willie Nelson. Her collaborator, Jeff Trott, also made the cut, as did the Band, Crowded House and the Pretenders.

Fittingly, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was included. Crow wore a T-shirt declaring “War is not the answer” — a line from the song — at the American Music Awards in January.

About 58,000 units of the Crow CD were shipped to Starbucks-owned stores in North America and the four Hear Music stores, MacKinnon said. If first-week sales were reported to SoundScan, the album would bubble under the top 100. The CD retails at $14.95 (C$19.95 in Canada).

With a strong fan base, Crow is “a great person to guide” people in their music choices, MacKinnon added. As related in the packaging, Crow talked about her picks over breakfast at a Chicago hotel.

Dylan’s Sony Music label initially vetoed her choice of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” but then Dylan’s manager stepped in and gave his approval, MacKinnon said.

On the other hand, the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” did not make the CD because the rights are owned by the group’s former label, ABKCO Music, which has rigid licensing terms.

For their part, the Rolling Stones aimed to surprise fans with their choices, MacKinnon said. Mick Jagger reveals that he seduces his girlfriends with Sade’s “By Your Side,” while a pensive Ronnie Wood says the lyrics in the Beach Boys’ “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” remind him a little of himself.

The Bennett CD includes such tunes as Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” Frank Sinatra’s “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)” Louis Armstrong’s “Mack the Knife” and the Abyssinian Baptist Choir’s “Gonna Ride That Glory Train.”

Cash’s picks include tracks by Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson and Eddy Arnold, as well as Roberta Flack’s “The First Time” and the Eagles’ “Take it to the Limit.” None of the tracks have been cleared yet, so it is possible some may not end up on the CD, MacKinnon said.

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