Garth Brooks has signed a multi-year, exclusive pact with Wal-Mart making the retailer and its Sam’s Clubs and walmart.com outlets the only places where his music will be commercially available.
The deal with Brooks marks the first time an artist, and certainly a superstar, has aligned himself and his entire catalog with one chain. (A number of other retailers have started labels, but they were never exclusive to the retailer and most have shut down).
Speculation about a pact brewing between Brooks and Wal-Mart grew after Brooks performed at a Wal-Mart shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Ark. on June 3. However, until now, both sides have declined to acknowledge that they had made a deal.
Brooks tells Billboard that he’s not ready to discuss details of the marriage until “we get our ducks a row,” but adds that the forthcoming releases, “in everything from cost to content, will be an amazing deal for the Garth fan.”
Says David Porter, Wal-Mart VP and divisional merchandise manager, “Garth’s music holds a magic that touches his fans of all ages and making his titles available to our customers just makes sense since so many of his fans are Wal-Mart customers.”
The initial deal is believed to cover only catalog since Brooks had vowed to remain retired from performing and recording new material until his youngest daughter graduates from high school in 2015. Then, he has said he’ll reevaluate the marketplace and his desire to return to the music recording industry. Brooks’ last studio album, 2001’s “Scarecrow,” has sold 2.9 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Although neither Brooks nor Wal-Mart would comment on the first arrival under the pact, industry sources say that it will be a multiple-disc box set including previously unreleased material. The set will street in late fall and will retail at around $25.
This will not be Brooks’ first boxed set. Brooks re-released a number of his early albums, each with added bonus material, in a limited edition box set in 1997, made available to all retailers. The set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 1.9 million units.
While other superstars, such as Elton John and the Rolling Stones have released exclusive box sets through Best Buy, they were DVD projects. This is the first time an artist has released an audio box set exclusively through a traditional retailer.
Such a project, because it is not available to all retailers, would not be eligible for the Billboard 200 album chart, but would appear on billboard.com’s Comprehensive Albums chart.
Brooks’ departure from Capitol Nashville, his label home since 1989, paved the way for the Wal-Mart deal. Capitol and Brooks dissolved their licensing deal in June. Brooks owns his masters, leaving him free to shop for a new deal. His catalog includes 15 projects. Capitol parent EMI can sell remaining Brooks’ titles it already had in the pipeline to retailers prior to the June deal, but it can manufacture no more units.