With much of the hype around Garth Brooks press conference last Thursday surrounding the 'will he / won’t he' of his Croke Park residency, little attention was paid to the fact that American country music’s biggest name is finally making his music available digitally.
Garth Brooks' impressive back catalogue of 19 albums (including live and compilations) will soon be available to buy and download through his own website. For fans of his music this is seen as great news and shows that, despite his reservations, he’s finally beginning to adapt to market demands. Currently, it’s very hard to source his music outside of CD shops, whether through YouTube or other similar services. Yet smartphone ownership is on the rise and digital music appears to be the future.
However it appears that Brooks is only dipping his toe in the water that is online music. When released, the music will only be on his own website. No iTunes, and more importantly, no Spotify. Spotify’s meteoric rise has shown that streaming music is a very popular medium, and the recent addition of Spotify to the mix of the top chart songs shows it’s here long term.
The fundamental flaw in Brooks' plan means that a whole new type of music listener, those who stream over all else, will miss the opportunity to hear some of the greatest country songs ever written (opinions vary).
Whether he likes it or not, streaming is the future of music. Obviously there are still kinks that need to be ironed out as artists seem to be in a constant revenue battle. However for the one of the best-selling artists of the last 20 years to continue an upward trajectory, it’s time for Brooks (and obviously his record label) to make the songs widely available online.
Physical album sales are down across the board and rarely now will an artist hit the million mark in Europe in terms of number of albums sold. In fact last year’s biggest selling album in the UK, One Direction’s Midnight Memories, sold 685,000 copies. To put that in perspective the latest single from the same album ‘Story of My Life’ has been streamed 79 million times on Spotify. And to put that again into perspective, Garth Brooks’ third album sold 10 million copies when released in 1994 before digital downloads were a thing. Music consumption has changed drastically since Brooks took up residency in Vegas.
Spotify has 40 million users globally and at the end of last year Spotify launched their free service on mobile and tablet. In 2014, registered users on mobile has grown to three times the size it was the previous year. Economics 101 tells us markets are dictated by supply and demand. As music fans move to streaming sites more so than buying physical records, isn't it time Brooks embraced this and made his music available on all platforms?
Neil Harrington is an Account Executive in Mindshare,
the media buying agency of the DDFH&B Group.
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