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“Gotta dance,” the great Gene Kelly sang in “Singing In The Rain,” and the evidence seems to be that retailers today think that Kelly was playing their song.

Take for example, Wal-Mart. Rolling Stone reports that “Wal-Mart wants every CD you buy to cost less than ten bucks. And the nation's largest retailer -- which moved a quarter of a trillion dollars' worth of goods last year -- usually gets its way. Suppliers who don't accede to Wal-Mart's ‘everyday low price’ mantra often find their products bounced from the chain's stores, excluded from being sold to the 138 million people who shop at a Wal-Mart store every week.”

Wal-Mart currently sells one out of five albums sold in the US, though it stocks far fewer than most music stores – an average of 5,000 CDs compared to the 60,000 or so that might be carried by a Virgin Records or Tower Records.

Or take Starbucks, which has announced that it is following through on plans to install CD-burning stations in stores in Washington State and Texas, offering latte and cappuccino drinkers a chance to create their own CDs from some 200,000 available songs. Starbucks is offering this capability through its Hear Music division, which it bought back in 1999.

Starbucks has already been pretty successful in the music business. It recently brought out Ray Charles’ last album of new material, “Genius Loves Company,” and turned it into the nation’s number two selling album.
KC's View:
What’s interesting about this is that while both companies are working to make music more available to the masses, they’re coming at it from different perspectives. Wal-Mart wants to sell cheap music from a limited catalog, while the Starbucks offerings will be more expensive and the selection far more extensive. Nothing wrong with either approach…it’s just an interesting difference.

As for us, we’re sticking with iTunes.