Photo by Mark Humphrey
Country superstar Garth Brooks on Thursday took another big step in his long-awaited comeback.
The longtime digital music holdout has unveiled a new platform (and iTunes alternative) called GhostTunes, which he says "allows artists to sell music any way they want to.”
Depending on the copyright holder's decision, an artist's music catalog will be be available on GhostTunes for individual track or album downloads or streaming. Coldplay, Sam Smith and Ariana Grande are among the first artists included on the service.
As Brooks is expected to release his first studio album since 2001 around Black Friday, all eight of his previous records are conveniently available on GhostTunes for the "stupid" low price of $29.99.
Interestingly, GhostTunes arrives as the music industry is navigating through a decline in not only physical album sales but digital as well. But having spent most of the digital years off the grid, Brooks hasn't had to deal with much of the up-and-down.
In fact, the 52-year-old's eight-disc box set, Blame It All on My Roots, released last Thanksgiving with 164,000 copies sold over the holiday weekend. And it was only available at Walmart.
Although GhostTunes has been postured as a potential revolutionary platform, the reality may be that it's not so much a game-changer for the industry as it is a means of security for Brooks.
With a record 70 million albums sold since 1991, it's understandable that he might be weary of the digital waters. But as he suggested on Thursday, perhaps the new service is just his floaties: "If one of the [major platforms] decides to take up this strategy and GhostTunes goes out of business, then music wins," he said, hinting that he'd close up shop at GhostTunes if iTunes were to finally let him sell only full albums.
Even if Ariana Grande or Coldplay were to go for "album-only" on GhostTunes, their fans know where to go to buy or stream singles. In 2014, there's no undoing that. Meanwhile, Brooks is allowed to both enter the digital space and continue selling full albums. And since last year's box set proved a disproportionate number of his fans (when compared to his peers) still buy physical CDs, adding full digital albums to the mix is clearly a win-win—at least for Garth Brooks.