You Starbucks aficionados will be happy to know that a big chunk of the Starbucks ambiance — its music — is under the control of Don MacKinnon ’90. After college, MacKinnon started Hear Music, a small chain of music stores based out of San Francisco that sold CD compilations. In the mid-90s, Starbucks began selling CDs, including those from Hear Music. In 1999, Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, flew down to San Francisco see what Hear Music was all about, and as he says, the minute he walked in the store

‘My imagination was racing a mile a minute.’ He watched customers thumbing through the banks of carefully organized compilation CDs and decided they were rediscovering music in the same way people had rediscovered coffee at Starbucks. ‘The fact that Hear Music had elevated its status from a record store to an editor was compelling.’

Accordingly, Starbucks bought the company later that year for $8 million. MacKinnon moved to Seattle and became Starbucks’ VP of Music and Entertainment.

Last year, Starbucks began offering the ability to burn a CD while you had a latte. After a high profile announcement in March 2004, the company tempered its rollout schedule as it discovered that inserting a CD burner into a cafe wasn’t as easy as it initially thought. Nevertheless, as Rolling Stone notes, Starbucks’ growing CD business is an anomaly in an era of slumping CD sales.

So for all you recent graduates that have rigid career development plans (work for two years, get my Harvard MBA, be a brand manager at P&G for three years…), note that serendipity can have a much bigger impact on your career than you may think.

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