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Hacking the Starbuck's Muzak Machine? 101

llamaluvr asks: "My friend is employed at a Starbucks coffeehouse, and he told me about a system they use for controlling what kind of music is played in the store. The machine can only play a particular type of CD, which contains 90-100 songs that "expire" after awhile, and is appearantly compiled/ produced by Hear Music, a subsidary of Starbucks. PlayNetwork is in charge of the the hardware. Anyway, he and his fellow employees are sick of Starbucks lame playlists, and they can't use normal CDs, as the machine tells them that the CDs are "expired". Does anybody know anything about how this system works? Is it at all possible to make a CD on your own that can be played on these machines?"
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Hacking the Starbuck's Muzak Machine?

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  • Now that hacking carries a life sentence there's no way I'm going to help you steal music like this.
    • RTFA!!!!

      They are not trying to steal any kind of music they just want to listen to the music they already own which is Fair Use!

      Do you work for the MPAA or something!

      Please do not listen to this we have the right to tamper with any equipment in our possession even if we don't own it!

      Our four fathers are spinning in they're grave!
      • You have four fathers? Ewww!
      • They aren't trying to steal music. However, they are still trying to use company property for personal use which, like using your work computer to read Slashdot and taking office supplies home, is illegal and immoral.

        I'd also like to note that the article mentions a CD that they "made themselves". Most likely from music stolen online, so my original point still stands.

      • The US Copyright law treats playing recorded music at a establishment such as Starbucks as a public performance. This is entirely different than private listening to music that you have purchased. The previous poster's concerns are entirely justified.

        My guess is that the StarBucks system incorporates an expiration time specifically to manage how StarBucks has licensed the music. Hacking that system, in itself, may or may not be illegal. But using the hack to play music from privately owned CDs almost certainly violates the Copyright law.

        /Don

        • ASCAP has a FAQ [ascap.com] that deals with the whole issue of public performance of copyrighted material. Well worth reading.

          /Don

        • recording a concert (that you paid to get into) while you're at it and distributing it is legal because... i dunno. all i know is that's one of the ways/reasons metallica got big in the first place. "word of mouth tapes" or somesuch. so is it illegal to record a live public performance, i.e. somthing in central park, NY NY, that's free to attend?

          just randomly curious
          • so is it illegal to record a live public performance?

            Yes, unless the performer has given specific permission for you to record it.

            /Don

            • hunh. even if it's paid for with public money? at that point it would seem, at least phiolsophically, "pubic domain" - that performance specifically, of course
              • If the public money commissioned a work, than the work would be owned by the city, which presumably would be then redistributed for the peoples good. (But maybe not) Alternatively the work could be sold and the money used for the public good.

                However, in this case, its more like a city buying a copy of a book. The book was paid for with public funds, but that doesnt give the city the right to make as many copies of the book as they choose.

          • Distributing a concert recording is not legal. But MANY bands do allow this, its up the the concert preformers themselves.
        • This is true if you play it for the customers, and I could see that ASCAP might come after Starbucks for that. In practice, though, if they discover that it's just a couple of employees who have hot-wired the jukebox, they're not gonna sue; it's too small potatoes.

          But if employees play music they own when the store isn't open, I'd bet that's legal; the public can't get in. Personally, that's when I'd really want it. I can stand the 'music' while the place is open, but I'd love to listen to something I like while opening or closing.
          • Then go to Target or Walmart or K-mart (Big-K?) and buy a $90 boombox, put it on the counter, insert CD, press play, and enjoy your tunes while the cappucino machine.

            I suggest, however, that the poster wants to be able to play the tunes while the customers are in the house. I say: they need to be fired, because they expose their corporation to lawsuit and potentially embarrassing headlines.
            • Then go to Target or Walmart or K-mart (Big-K?) and buy a $90 boombox, put it on the counter, insert CD, press play, and enjoy your tunes while the cappucino machine.

              Yeah, a sap who probably nets $5/hour after taxes should spend half a work week so that they and their coworkers can listen to music that they like during setup and teardown when there's a better stereo just sitting there. Swell idea.

              I suggest, however, that the poster wants to be able to play the tunes while the customers are in the house. I say: they need to be fired, because they expose their corporation to lawsuit and potentially embarrassing headlines.

              Yeah, I can see it in the NYT already: Minimum-Wage Workers Discovered To Not Always Follow Rules.

              Let's be real here. From the way you're talking, I imagine that you've never worked a low-end job for a major chain. On average, the managers are robots and the employees are animals. This is understood and expected on all sides. If a couple of minimum-wage teenagers are playing unlicensed music, ASCAP will probably never notice, especially given that Starbucks is already paying every month for music, the only question being who gets the credit. If they do, the most they'll do is send a slightly mean letter to Starbucks.

              Thirty seconds later, Starbucks will write back saying that the rogue employees have been terminated and that their vendor has been notified to beef up security on the jukeboxes. ASCAP, noting that Starbucks currently pays 3.2 zillion dollars annually in royalties, will waive the misplaced 30 cents, and everybody will be happy, especially the cd-burning chumps who will never have to use the word "Venti" again and will be working at some other low-rent job a week later.

              If Starbucks Corporate HQ would sweat over anything, it would be the potential image problem if customers walk in and the stereo is blaring "You've Got Fetus On Your Breath". But if the guys behind the counter are even vaguely savvy about their music choices, even that won't be a problem.

              So please muzzle your moralizing. The poster did not ask for advice from his mommy; he asked about an interesting geek problem. Hopefully they will post more details so we can get on with figuring out how things work.
        • IANAL, but I know that case law has established that public performance of a copyrighted work is generally not a problem as long as you are not charging admission. So, if you are playing your portable stereo in a park and someone overhears it, you are not in trouble for copyright violation. However, it might be better to play it safe (no pun intended), and avoid public performance altogether in a setting like Starbucks.
          • But then what are you paying for if you're not paying for the music? The price of a starbuck cup is too high for the actual content (few choices of coffee, and the one choice is kind of bad at that), there is no cleaning of cup cost or service charge applicable (all preparation is behind the counter), there is a fixed very low price for the actual cup, etc.

            So in effect, aren't you paying out of your ears for the atmosphere? Isn't the music a major part of that?
            • If this is the case, why do Stabucks kiosks inside other stores and drive-through-only Starbucks (they exist) charge the same amount even though there is no music being played or any other "atmosphere" to speak of?
      • Our four fathers are spinning in they're grave!

        Uh, John, Paul, George and Ringo?

        <couldn't resist/>
  • Note (Score:3, Funny)

    by Slashdot's Attorney ( 588436 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:14AM (#3901282) Homepage
    The above "Ask Slashdot" article is intended for entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as encouraging, condoning, or acknowledging any "hacking," tampering, or other misuse of equipment as may be prohibited under the DMCA and related laws. Slashdot furthermore denies all responsibility for the actions, thoughts, and written words of its users.
  • Unplug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isorox ( 205688 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:18AM (#3901309) Homepage Journal
    Unplug the jukebox, take the speaker wires and maybe the amp, and plug a normal cd player in. Simple.
  • More info (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inkfox ( 580440 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:24AM (#3901349) Homepage
    Can you get your hands on an "expired" disc to look at what's on it?

    Chances are it's just got a date or an ID on it, no signing or anything fancy like that, meant to keep stores from playing the wrong disc or from having playable music if they don't continue to subscribe.

    I'd dump an image and look for something nonstandard in the TOC. If I were making a player that locked users out, I'd put it right there so I could use a standard CD player and just add code to compare the tail of that buffer to a 16 bit date number or such.

    If you're really unlucky, they might actually be going so far as to put this on a special kind of limited use disc (a unique Disc Application Code [everything2.com] in the Wobble Track), but it's unlikely they'd go to that expense unless this is a very popular and expensive service (which it may well be). At the least, I wouldn't be surprised if it were an audio disc and not a data CDR. I believe gcombust can tell you what DAC was read when a disc was inserted, and that might tell you more.

    By the way, if it does have a special DAC, you're screwed without getting special media pressed or modifying the player. You can't write a wobble with a regular CD burner.

    • By the way, if it does have a special DAC, you're screwed without getting special media pressed or modifying the player. You can't write a wobble with a regular CD burner.

      There's one simple way to find out if the disc is reproducable. Get a hold of a disc, make a 1-to-1 copy, and see if it still plays. If so you can probably adjust a date stamp or something. If not, no ammount of hacking will make it work with your standard burner.
    • Re:More info (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dubl-u ( 51156 )
      Yep! And if you can get your hands on the disc, upload if for us. "With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow." And this sounds like an annoying bug.
    • And when looking for the date code, remember it doesn't have to include the date. If it did, then it would be a simple matter of setting the clock in the player.

      A better scheme would be just to use an incrementing "edition" or "volume" number... After playing Starbucks Greatest Hits Volume 10 for 1,000 hours, it could decide that that was enough and from then on, it would play only Volume 11 or higher (and when it saw such a disc, it would reset its playtime counter).

      The disadvantage to that scheme is when you decide that, in order to play on all machines, you come out with your own CD labeled "volume 65535", you'll bump up the volume counter in every machine the disc gets played in and they will no longer play the corporate-sanction editions (which haven't reached anywhere near 65535 yet).

      Then, there's the implementation of the actual device - it could be easy to get around. If there is a battery or a supercapacitor backing up memory, disconnecting and/or shorting it out would clear the memory. Presumably, the player would get set to a special state where it would play the first volume it read... or (less likely because it would be a pain to maintain) it may require a special initialization CD that tells it what the current volume is.

      And if the config data is stored in an EEPROM (either a discrete device, or embedded in some other part, such as the microcontroller), then it gets harder...

      good luck, and please report back. Or better yet, send me a unit!
  • by AnalogBoy ( 51094 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:31AM (#3901392) Journal
    Ponder for a second the other side of the issue, before you and your friend do anything rash.

    The company/licensee/franchisee may be paying a licensing fee for this equipment and may be contractually bound to use said CD or Subscription service. By using a homemade CD in said system, they may be asking for trouble.

    Keep in mind, this is just one possibility. I'd hate to see someone get in trouble because they didn't think before they acted.

    • We hire a video jukebox system at uni. The videos are encoded somehow to stop us putting a disc of mpegs on, and keep us subscribing.

      We also rent the machine for £x a week.

      We get the money back from students giving us their loan cheques to watch/listen to some stuff.

      However we are still allowed to pump a composite video signal and a ballance audio signal into the boxm and broadcast whenever we want.

      Whiles theres a chance they cant do this (legally), or even get into trouble from the area manager, there is also a chance the system is designed to allow additions.
  • check 2600 (Score:3, Informative)

    by tongue ( 30814 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:31AM (#3901396) Homepage
    they really get into this kind of shit...
  • by mosch ( 204 )
    The ideal solution would be for him and his fellow employees to stop working for dishonest child labor employing [coopamerica.org] mega-corporations who destroy local businesses and don't even have good coffee.

    This solution would obviate the need for this hackery, allow for them to listen to better music, and help make the planet a slightly nicer place to live.

    • mega-corporations who destroy local businesses and don't even have good coffee.

      Hold on, there Tweek. Even 7-11 has "good" coffee. What they don't have is "great" coffee. I'd watch out for the underpants gnomes if I were you.

    • Did you actually read the page that you linked to? It seems they cite Starbucks as one of their middle tier recommended coffee shops. Thus I assume that the poster's friend can now apparently continue to work there in good conscience?
  • by SuperguyA1 ( 90398 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:35AM (#3901432) Homepage
    Back in the old days we had to be more clever to circumvent this kind of thing, fortunately specialty stores still sell these circumvention devices [radioshack.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:42AM (#3901476)
    If the CD has between 90 and 100 songs on it, there is no way it is a regular CD, it has to be some kind of compressed music.

    It means that the guys would have first to find out the kind of compression (mp3, wma, ogg...) and only then try to make a CD "with music whose original record they own (just to make clear the fair use)".

    If it is some kind of compressed file, it may have some kind of authorization file, that may be encrypted...
  • by l1ghtfoot ( 473165 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @10:56AM (#3901569) Homepage
    If your end goal is actually to play YOUR music at Starbucks, would it not just be easier to bypass their system altogether and patch in a regular CD deck or Discman to play your CD's?
    • Well, yes. But then he couldn't get his name on Ask Slashdot and it's not "geeky" enough, it's just plain practical.
    • If your end goal is actually to play YOUR music at Starbucks, would it not just be easier to bypass their system altogether and patch in a regular CD deck or Discman to play your CD's?

      But where's the fun in that? This is the sort of thing that you do, just to prove that you can do it!
  • Starbuck's place Starbucks rule's. If you don't like it leave.

    They are trying to run a business and I imagine they set up just such a system to ensure consistency between various stores and to set the environment they want.
  • by kootch ( 81702 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @11:11AM (#3901689) Homepage
    What makes you think you are allowed to change the music? Corporation's marketing dep. says "we want this music to be played all the time in your Starbucks because 1) we have found that it leads to more people drinking more coffee and 2) we want to sell our cd compilations of the music so people can listen at home and pretend they are in Starbucks" Corporation says "behold, it is law"

    And then you come along and think, hell, I work here, I wanna hear TMBG all day long and not this crap.

    DO YOU THINK YOUR OPINION MATTERS?

    Watch how quickly you get fired for tampering with their ordained music selections (which I'm sure is both a corporate perogative as well as the CEO's favorite songs)

    This isn't 1999. It doesn't matter if you're happy or not. There will be no pool table in the office lounge. Suck it up. You work at a glorified McDonalds.
    • It's starbucks, do you think they care if they get fired? It might not seem right in your perfectly moral brain but dam, its just music.
      • Starbucks may be nasty for a host of reasons -- it's the WalMart of coffee shops killing off the little guys, it's got a nasty corporatized lifestyle thing going on, whatever -- but they offer great bennies and have some nice policies as well. Does McDonald's extend medical, dental and vision benefits to part-timers and their domestic partners? Do they support sustainable agricultural practices? Recycle as much as possible?

        I don't drink Starbucks coffee if I have another choice, but I don't begrudge their baristas the choice to work for a company that treats them with respect. If you're working in the $7/hour zone, there are a lot of worse places to be. And damn but the chonga bagels are tasty :)

        • Starbucks may be nasty for a host of reasons -- it's the WalMart of coffee shops killing off the little guys, it's got a nasty corporatized lifestyle thing going on, whatever -- but they offer great bennies and have some nice policies as well. Does McDonald's extend medical, dental and vision benefits to part-timers and their domestic partners? Do they support sustainable agricultural practices? Recycle as much as possible?

          Watch all that go out the window as soon as their bottom line undergoes a serious downturn...
    • Who cares? If they want to change it, they will. If they get in trouble for it, that's their problem. I'm sure they're quite aware that they aren't supposed to change the music. And I'm equally sure that if they were really attached to their job at Starbucks, they wouldn't do it. Apparently they aren't all that attached.

    • "It doesn't matter if you're happy or not"? What kind of attitude is that on Slashdot of all places? If you do see the job as a "glorified McDonalds" then do whatever is in your power to make it a better place to work at. I've had to work at too many of those kinds of crap jobs and the only way to keep your sanity during a ten hour shift is to find some escape. If it's music that doesn't suck, more power to you. Yeah you might get fired but at least you'll have a shread of human dignity. If you follow kootch's advice you'll probably end up as bitter as he sounds in his post.
      • No one is forced to work at Starbucks. They choose that path. If they don't like it there they can work to change the way the culture works or they can move on.Sabotaging equipment isn't the way to change anything but your employement status. Just quit and get a job in a 7/11 where they will allow you to listen to your music.
      • i'll admit, it was a flame. dunno how it get to a 5 insightful... hehe

        regardless.

        "hacking" with their equipment because your musical taste doesn't match the corporate-sponsored (forced) music because you're sick of listening to it is just wrong. I'm sorry, but it's their corporation and you are an employee. It's not your bedroom/apt/car.

        Now, if you WROTE the management and laid out advantages for Starbucks Inc by allowing employees to have some say in the music selection, that would be different. Stuff like employee mental health, customer retention through extended music selection, etc. That's called "changing from within". And if they come back and say no, you have your answer (deal with it). But going and modding their hardware (without permission) is very, very childish.
    • Duh (Score:3, Funny)

      This reply applies to many of the asinine posts in this topic, I just chose this one at random.

      Do you not, perhaps, think that the poster of the question realises that changing the CD might not be, gasp horror, disapproved of by the powers that be leading to firing, threats of legal action, death, being sent to bed without supper etc. etc.

      The poster possibly also considered
      a) replacing the CD player
      b) planting cockroaches and calling the environmental health department (or whatever you call it)
      c) deploying tactical nuclear missiles

      I believe the poster is asking for advice on what, in prehistory, used to be termed 'a hack'.
    • your absolutly right, in the *nix world you however would be what we call a hitler admin. if i was one of your employee's i'd simply turn the music down, not off, and turn on some better music loud enough to drown out the crappy music.
  • Seriously, your friend should just quit and get a different job. The end results will be the same either way; he'll no longer be working at Starbucks and so he won't have to listen to their crappy music anymore.

    If he hacks the machine and gets caught (and he will get caught), he'll just get fired anyway, and might even be looking at a lawsuit (public establishments have limits on what music they can play, though I'd have to ask my wife about the particulars) or even criminal charges. In other words, stuff that looks real bad on a resume.

    That said, it shouldn't be difficult if you can get ahold of one of the expired CDs and know how to read a hex dump. It'll probably take some time, though.

    • Seriously, your friend should just quit and get a different job. The end results will be the same either way; he'll no longer be working at Starbucks and so he won't have to listen to their crappy music anymore.

      Yeah, but sometimes the hack is the fun part. Check out what this guy [cockeyed.com] has done at Java City. Eventually management did catch on, but they had a sense of humor and admired his wit.
      • Reminds me of the time I replaced all of the NO TASTE TESTING signs taped to the community college's [bucks.edu] soda fountains with amazingly similar looking signs that said NO TESTE TASTING. Unfortunately, it only took a day or two for this to be noticed and the signs were promptly replaced. It gave me a chuckle anyway...
        • At my old community college [cc.ca.us] there were big signs in the cafeteria that said PLEASE BUS YOUR OWN TABLES. In one corner there was an area with some big comfy chairs and a couple of coffee tables. For some unknown reason the coffee tables had glass tops.

          One day, a friend of mine decided to chug his soda and then slam the empty can down on the table in a manly display of soda-guzzling prowess. The glass tabletop, of course, shattered. Fortunately, though, my friend was prepared: He pulled out his big fat permenant marker (you know, the ones with the fumes that almost knock you flat when you pull off the cap) and added a T to the end of the BUS on all of those signs...

  • Bring your own CD player in and plug the Audio jacks that go to the speakers into that instead. Viola, problem solved, countless hours of hacking saved.

    • Maybe he doesn't want classical music, tho? Maybe he prefers guitars to violas?

      Regardless, I bet your scheme would work (I wouldn't want to be the one to piss off Starbucks by changing their Carefully Chosen Corporate Atmosphere Music, however).
      et voila!

      ; )
  • A number of people have mentioned the idea of disconnecting the current CD player, but I think they're overlooking a potentially serious legal problem (or several legal problems). 1) The store probably has a contract with the content provider. This contract may go so far as to state that the store has agreed to play ONLY music from the content providor and playing other music voids the deal or incurs heavy fines. 2) Any contract with the content provider likely includes fees for rights to the music supplied and means the content provider has taken care of this sticky legal situation. I'm not sure, but I think there is a legal problem if the employees start playing other ASCAP or BMI (or other organizations) music in a place of business. I've never heard of a company being fined or sued for something like this, but a jilted content provider may be eager to report a former customer to ASCAP or such for licensing violations because they are playing the music in a public place of business.
  • by automandc ( 196618 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @01:03PM (#3902720)
    Before you go too far down this path, consider that any music played in a retail establishment like Starbucks is technically a "public performance" and would need to be licensed for that purpose. The reason SB uses that kind of technology is (probably) because they pay licensing fees as part of the deal, hence the expiration (it is a limited use license).

    Most stores don't bother with this, because they are not going to be targeted by the RIAA. However, Starbucks is using music to create an "ambiance" meaning that the music is part of their product, and the patrons are expected to linger and enjoy it. Thus, they are "selling" the music as much as the coffee (even if you don't want to pay for it).

    Plugging in your own CD player, or hacking the system in order to play your own music will make Starbucks libel for copyright infringement, which I imagine they wouldn't appreciate.

    Sorry, I suggest you forget this endeavor.
    • Good point!

      Also something that they should think about is that hacking this system could get them all fired and possibly involved in a law suit. Corporate Starbucks may not like the fact that some people are playing their own music in these establishments as well as hacking their (SB) "custom made" hardware. If they (SB) have limited license for these songs and you bring in unlicensed music you could get them (SB) into trouble. Who do you think Starbucks would go after if the MPAA/RIAA or some other AA (anonymous a******) went after SB? YOU!

      Aside from that there may be some subliminal messages that would get missed in .. you know that '3rd' track that says drink more coffee from Starbucks. (LOL)

      Seriously it is probably a cd that has some hidden tracks on the cdrom. It may be possible to use a normal cdrom in their system, but the question then would become what is on the hidden tracks. If the cdrom player recognizes the cdrom and says that it is expired, it probably has a hidden track that has some kind of expiration date or number code. It could be something as simple as using the unix timestamp in seconds on a hidden track that tells the expiration of a cdrom in seconds since the epoch.

      Personally, before hacking at this thing, I'd go to corporate or your manager or superiors, and ask them if you could get a different selection of music. It is after all only 'background music' and not worth potentially loosing your job over (IMHO).

      • Also something that they should think about is that hacking this system could get them all fired and possibly involved in a law suit.

        While I believe you are right and a lawsuit would be involved, I have to wonder.

        How much money can a company expect to win from it's minimum wage employees???

        I would be like:
        ok, I'm not getting a lawyer.
        Fine, I'll settle out of court.
        Sure, I owe you 2 million dollars.
        Will you take a check? ;)
        Well of couse it bounced, if I had 2 million dollars do you think I would have been working for you for $7 an hour in the first place!!!!
        • Not all lawsuits are for money. SB could press charges against them for hacking or soemthing and then I think it would be more of how much time would SB try to put them in jail for. Look at Demetri S. (I can't spell his name). Isn't he still in jail for just presenting a solution?

          I could see them getting fired at least. One must wonder what their corporate policy is on this or if they even have one.

          • Starbucks can neither press charges nor get their employees thrown into jail. A common misconception is that any average joe can "press charges" like on TV and in movies. What Starbucks can do is sue its employees for violating their employement contract which I am sure prevents employees from engaging in this type of act. SB would then have to present this case to the local District Attorney who would determine if 1) a criminal law has been violated and 2) said law requires "pressing charges."

            In any event SB would spend very little time getting them put into jail. They would spend a considerable amount of money working with the DA's office to provide them with the evidence to convict the employees. Instead, SB would probably rather sue them. This would look good in a lawsuit from the company's box who has been hacked. It would solidify the point that SB did not condone the actions of its employees (even though they may be held responsible for them.)

            Remember that there is a huge difference between criminal and civil laws.
    • Plugging in your own CD player, or hacking the system in order to play your own music will make Starbucks libel for copyright infringement, which I imagine they wouldn't appreciate.

      Sorry, I suggest you forget this endeavor.

      Your argument is factually correct, but you make the fatal error of assuming that someone making $6.25/hr with no benefits might give a fuck about what is good for the company as a whole.

      He just wants to listen to something besides kiddie pop- the same kiddie pop that they've been subjecting him to all day, every day, for weeks and weeks on end! If you've ever been a wage slave forced to listen to someone else's music, you'll know that it amounts to torture after the first repeat rolls around. He appeals to /. to save him from this caffeinated private hell, and you tell him that he should give up on his dream of freedom because it might place those who cause his suffering in jeopardy of a strong-arm visit from the RIAA?

      Seems to me it ain't his problem, especially if they can't pin it on him when he makes the swap. Worst thing that happens from the employee's perspective is that he has to find a new job... it may be that changing CD's at Starbucks is a firing offence.
  • come on people... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NateSac ( 579551 )
    The only reason people are posting dont do this, you'll get fired, is because they dont know the answer to the poster's question, and any one who posts such a message should be considered off topic. He knows if he gets caught he might get fired, and no, he doesnt care... Its just Starbucks.
  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2002 @03:44PM (#3904023) Homepage
    Forget all this "It's Starbucks' place, so it's Starbucks' rules". That *is* true, but any sensible company is (or should be) always looking for ways to improve their business.

    Have you tried finding out what both customers and staff prefer to listen to, then sending it to the people that organise the music for Starbucks? That would seem to make the most sense to me...
  • You want to play your music then open your own coffee shop. When you work for Starbucks and take their money then you do things their way or you leave. So if you hack thier machine and they find out and fire your friends sorry ass don't come bitching about it. He got what he asked for.
  • Starbucks's Muzak is slightly annoying, by not so much that it distracts me from my reading; nor is it loud enough to overpower my head phones.

    I suppose it's somewhat "hip" music, picked by a demographer at Starbucks to appeal to their yuppie customers and above all not to offend customers or in any way frustrate those customers in their quest to give Starbucks $5.00 for a cup of coffee.

    And that's a good thing. I'm no fan of corporate blandness or lowest common denominator marketing, but...

    A Starbucks employee is often a pierced-nosed, tattooed counter-culture wanna-be, and there is no way I'm going to enjoy my Venti Mocha Frap listening to what that employee wants to hear.

    I know this makes me sound old and curmudgeonly, but I've always been this way.
  • Has anyone tried browsing Starbucks [starbucks.com] with cookies disabled?

  • Hmmm... Play random CDs that aren't licenced for public playing. This is a good way of getting the RIAA to come in and sue the Hell out of Starbucks.

    I am betting that the second the District Manager (or who ever) walked in pink slips would fly.

    Starbucks pays a lot of money to licence both the rights to play the music and getting the music that they feel helps build the atmosphere that will bring in more custommers... What makes you think they would like you playing with their formula anyway... ie. The music isn't there for the employees, it is there for the custommers

  • I don't know about other people here, but I read this as the Starbucks employees wanting to listen to their own music after hours, while they were cleaning up, closing, or whatever, not that they wanted to muck with the company's chosen mood music. But that's just me, you can read it however you'd like.

    By the way, I'd love to see an image (and damnit, not a scan of one;) of one of these disks, if only for shits and giggles.
  • they can't use normal CDs, as the machine tells them that the CDs are "expired".

    Easy. Use Consumer Activism. Report a fault to the equipment supplier each time it refuses to play a CD. This drives up their costs, therefore their prices and reduces their competitiveness. Eventually Starbucks will get the message and start using not fault equipment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @05:23PM (#3911956)
    We use the same system in the retail store I work in as the systems monkey. I went through the same dilema as this starbucks guy and thought I'd throw the cd into a cdrom to see whats on it. Theres a
    data.txt
    playdisc.aud

    data.txt reveals this.....

    [Playlist]
    Version=3.1
    ID=219091
    Title=Your company name DISC 20
    Programs=3
    Songs=389
    ProgramAdvance=0
    SongA dvance=0
    Expiration=2003/02/12
    StartTime=05:00
    EndTime=24:00

    [Program1]
    ID=13522
    Title=Club & Dance & Pop 1
    StartTime=05:00
    EndTime=08:30
    ProgramPlay=Nex t
    MaxPlayTime=0
    SongPlay=Random
    Songs=49
    Comme rcials=0

    [Program2]
    ID=13523
    Title=Modern Adult Contemporary
    StartTime=08:30
    EndTime=21:00
    Prog ramPlay=Next
    MaxPlayTime=0
    SongPlay=Random
    Song s=170
    Commercials=0

    and so on, it lists the songs that are in each program too. As you can see, modern adult contemporary(translated "crap") is played most of the day. However, there is the redeeming club and pop that starts after a certain time of day. I considered replacing the unit with a cd changer and choosing my own music but instead just changed the time of day programed into the player so it would play the club and pop music earlier in the day. You'll have to take one of the discs home to find out what your discs are configured like but if you want to change the time on the player(there has to be a disc in it to do this) press the menu button repeatedly until "press select to set the current time of day" is displayed on the menu screen, hit select then use the view button to change the number, hit select again to accept the change then use the view button to do the same with minutes if desired...........

    hope this helps ya out.

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