Starbucks isn’t playing his tune

Sean Cole Oct 30, 2007

Starbucks isn’t playing his tune

Sean Cole Oct 30, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: People go to Starbucks for a lot of things. Coffee among them, sure. Snacks and sweets. And increasingly, music. Today, the company said its Hear Music label is going to put out a fresh CD by the 21-year-old singer-songwriter, Hilary McRae. You can get Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney’s albums there, too. Starbucks’ in-store CD sales are in the millions. So it’s not surprising that unknown artists are knocking on its doors. Well, one artist in particular. Marketplace’s Sean Cole explains.

SEAN COLE: He calls himself DaVido. Just DaVido.

DAVIDO: [Singing] And if you really wanna know. It’s big D-a, big V-i-d-o.

He’s a nightclub singer in New Jersey, and about a year-and-a-half ago he was sitting in Starbucks, chatting up one of the baristas.

DAVIDO: And she was drinking a very strong coffee and she goes “Oh my God this gives me the java jitters.” And I said, “Ah, that’s a great, great idea for a song,” and she was really cute.

SONG CLIP: Sittin’ at Starbucks enjoyin’ a latte. When an angel walked by, what a hottie! Her triple espresso . . .

“Java Jitter” was supposed to be DaVido’s ticket to stardom. He even got a big-time record promoter to send Starbucks the song. Finally, he’d be on the shelf right next to Paul McCartney, Ray Charles … vanilla almond biscotti.

DAVIDO: We really believed that this song would raise the eyebrows of the Starbucks corporation. We all thought that. We thought the “Java Jitter” would be a drink, it’s a dance. . .

SONG CLIP: My baby did the Java Jitter all night long.

But Starbucks rejected “Java Jitter.” Unaware that rejection actually feeds DaVido, makes him stronger. He went down to a local Starbucks with a little film crew. The plan was to make a “Java Jitter” video, in the store and send it to the company.

DAVIDO: And, literally, they threw us out. I’m telling you it was almost like an attack. It was so fierce.

Because Starbucks forbids filming. So he went to a different one.

VIDEO CLIP: Get out.

He sang at and got kicked out of 203 different Starbucks.

VIDEO CLIP: I’m callin the cops, you see what I’m doin?

The result is a seven-minute video on YouTube called “The Starbucks Rejection Tour.”

And when I first saw the video I was sure Starbucks was behind it. DaVido and his entourage, dozens of people, do choreographed dances. The girl who plays the barista hottie wears a real Starbucks apron. They even get real baristas involved.

VIDEO CLIP: One java jitter!

But Starbucks says it had nothing to do with it. And really didn’t want to talk to me about this.

DAVIDO: And they’re probably hoping that I’m gonna go away. But I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m not. This is a guy with a dream. I am the singing Rocky.

SETH GODIN: That was one of the most dangerous movies ever made, I gotta tell ya.

Seth Godin is a marketing guru. He says that winners actually know when to quit, and that Davido clearly doesn’t. But he also says that in an age of digital downloading and infinite shelf space online, Starbucks can afford to give guys like DaVido a chance.

GODIN: So if I was in Starbucks’ shoes, I’d say this is great because we got 10,000 people who would love to sell their CDs. Lets let them sell them on the website and we’ll take the five best-selling ones and bring them into the store.

But Starbucks doesn’t wanna deal with it. It says it no longer accepts unsolicited material. Which means there are other DaVidos out there, treating this coffee company like it’s the new Nashville. And who can blame them? Starbucks is publishing and selling CD’s to loyal customers lured in by an addictive beverage. I asked DaVido what it would be like to see “Java Jitter” on the Starbucks CD racks.

DAVIDO: Did you ever see a grown man cry?

COLE: You think you would cry?

DAVIDO: I think I would. I think I would actually cry. I am going to keep on trying. I am not going to stop. Because I’m good to the last drop.

I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace.

VIDEO CLIP: I just want Starbucks to put my song on the racks. I love my song “Java Jitter!”

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