Garth Brooks, the last superstar artist to hold out on music streaming, has inked a deal with Amazon.
Effective immediately a number of titles from Brooks, the No. 1 selling solo artist in the U.S., are available for streaming exclusively through Amazon Music Unlimited, with more albums to be added. Last week, Amazon unveiled Music Unlimited, its expanded on-demand music streaming service that features tens of millions of songs, as well as curated playlists and personalized stations via different price points.
Available on Amazon Music Unlimited now are Brooks’ “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance,” the first single from his forthcoming studio album, Gunslinger, which debuted on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart at No. 19 this week, as well as his 34-track Ultimate Hits set, originally released in 2007, and 1998’s Double Live collection. Double Live will also be available on Amazon Prime.
Also coming to Amazon Music Unlimited later this year will be Brooks’ holiday album with Trisha Yearwood, Christmas Together, and Gunslinger. Much of the rest of his catalog is to follow for streaming. Brooks’ albums will also be available in their entirety for sale, both physically and as digital downloads via Amazon.
“This is a landmark moment for both Amazon Music and Garth Brooks,” Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music, said in a statement. “Garth Brooks is a legendary country music superstar who continues to shatter industry records and amaze fans three decades into his career. We are honored to make his music available for streaming for the first time ever, exclusively on Amazon Music.”
Amazon Music Unlimited will also be the official sponsor of Brooks’ tour, which is concluding the third year of its U.S. tour before going global in 2017.
Brooks, who is nominated for CMA Entertainer of the Year for the 11th time, talked exclusively to Billboard about the new deal.
While he wouldn’t put a price tag on the deal or disclose the length of the pact, he said, “Amazon has come to the table in a very large way financially,” and, because of that, he stressed the obligation he felt for Amazon to have more Brooks content than found anywhere else. As to what that will look like, he adds, “We’ll still be working that out. This whole streaming world for me is new.”
Billboard: Why Amazon and what were you looking for in a streaming service?
Brooks: We were talking to Spotify and Apple. Spotify didn’t have a place to sell [music] and iTunes had their own rules so, even though we can stand in the same room and be friends, there is some kind of rub there. So with them, it’s always a little tough. I think it comes down to egos on both sides. [Brooks has resisted having songs sold individually a la iTunes, instead preferring to keep the album a complete unit.] Then out of the blue comes a company that’s one, if not the most trusted name, in Internet sales, and they want to launch a streaming service. They already have a ton of listeners for their existing streaming service and they can do digital and physical sales.
The streaming deal starts with The Ultimate Hits and Double Live, with Gunslinger and Christmas Together to follow this year. Will your past studio albums ultimately be available to stream?
Yes. Amazon understands that we have the [10-disc box set, Garth Brooks: The Ultimate Collection] at Target [out Nov. 11]. Target has invested in the box set. So we asked them, “Would you please focus on The Ultimate Hits and Double Live?” Our [data] shows us that 97 percent of people who stream, stream those [hits] and not stream the other stuff that you can only get in the Target box. It was very sweet because these two are competitors, but we’d already entered the Target deal when Amazon came along. They played very nice with each other. Because of the Target deal, the [albums are] delayed, but will be on there.
What does this mean for GhostTunes, the site where your albums have been available for download for the past two years?
GhostTunes stays up to make sure that all the things that they promised [including pre-existing bundles and delivery of the new single through a Fritos promotion], they fulfill. So probably through the first of the year, once they get all their commitments fulfilled — whether GhostTunes goes away or not, I don’t know — but I know Garth Brooks will go away from GhostTunes by then.
Will Christmas Together (out Nov. 11) and Gunslinger (out Nov. 25) be available for streaming the day they are available for sale or will you window the release?
We’re windowing it. What I love about Amazon is that when you sit down and explain to them how a songwriter makes their living, they got it. So they know that, hey man, this is an album artist, protect the album. I think they’re hearing me on that and that’s very important to me. [The albums] will go onto Amazon for streaming [later this year].
Like on GhostTunes, your albums will continue to only be sold digitally as full sets on Amazon. There will still not be single downloads for sale.
No. And it was very sweet that they understood that. They said, “it’s your music, you tell us how you want it sold.” That’s why we created GhostTunes. Whatever price the copyright owner wants to sell it at, that’s their thing man. I love that they gave [me] that choice instead of other companies, who said, “This is how it’s going to be, take it or leave it.” I’ve enjoyed that part of this relationship as well.
Streaming is how most kids consume music. Do you feel this deal may help you reach an audience you may not have reached before?
I don’t know. If I even consider that, I’m chasing and I just don’t want to be that guy. I just want to play my music and make it available and if people dig it, then hopefully they’ll take it for their very own. They’ll come out and support you, they’ll sing, that’s the only way I look at it. I’m not looking at this as a ploy or a device to get to a younger audience. I’m not going to chase it. I’m just going to do it the way I do it.
Is it a relief for you to have streaming finally figured out?
These terms of these deals aren’t very long. Everything is going to keep changing. I think one of the reasons I really, really liked this deal is it’s not a longterm deal, so it kind of allows you to enter as a partnership, look at each other quickly and go, “hey, do we want to continue this or not.” That’s a sweet, sweet option to have. These people are like, “hey, you’re going to be with us for this amount of time. We think you’re going to love us more at the end of that time than you do now.” That’s the kind of company I want to work with.
But it does fill in a missing piece for you in terms of how to get your music heard.
Here’s the thing that I sit with that makes me sleep well at night: We’ve had a great run and we have never streamed, so if this never happens, I’m good (laughs). So the fact that this is happening, I hope it’s a good thing, but we’re going to see what it’s like and see what happens. That’s kind of where I’m at. I get where you say you’ve got to be so happy about this, but the truth is, I was happy before it happened.