Saturday, November 30, 2013

Garth Brooks, TV Concerts, and the New Music Industry

Last night, I watched the CBS Garth Brooks concert special, where Garth performed live on television from Las Vegas's Wynn Hotel & Casino.  It was one of the more entertaining shows I have seen on television in a long while.  Perhaps, it is the country boy in me who enjoyed it so much.

The economist in me enjoyed more than just the music.

First, it was interesting how Brooks did a live show to (presumably) paying customers at the Wynn, simultaneously with doing a made-for-TV concert, complete with commercial breaks.  The live audience witnessed a more complete show with some full songs that completed during commercial breaks.  It was worth watching at home, and I'm sure the ratings were pretty good for a Friday night.  It made me wonder why more artists don't do big made-for-TV concerts like this (maybe they do, and I miss them -- that's possible).

Second, it was even more interesting to me that the made-for-TV concert was an advertisement unto itself.  For Black Friday, Brooks was releasing an 8-disc box set of his own music and cover songs of popular other songs that influences his music.  The made-for-TV event was designed to announce to the world that he was doing this.  In addition, the show got us to wonder if Garth was kicking off a new run of shows in Vegas.  He's not, but if he was, it would be a great way to kick off a new live series of shows.

Finally, Garth Brooks appears to be back in the pre-iTunes pre-YouTube world.  He has a longstanding dispute with iTunes where he won't make any songs of his available for download, and that dispute continues with this new release, according to the Star Tribune:
It's priced at just $24.96, and can only be bought at Wal-Mart, its sister retailer Sam's Club and Brooks says his feelings about iTunes haven't changed, so he won't make the set available as a download or stream. 
"So, until they change or I change," Brooks said, "or some other company comes and gives them some competition, then I don't think you're ever going to see us on iTunes."
This aversion to the new technology of the music industry puzzles me because it strikes me as quite popular (and potentially quite profitable for a big name like Garth Brooks).  I spent the morning scouring YouTube for a Garth Brooks channel, and I didn't see one.  Rather, I saw a bunch of pirated songs with Garth pictures, or poorly-done covers of his music.  For the new generation of folks who engage with music through YouTube and iTunes, why would he want these knockoffs to be the first hit?  I'm sure he doesn't want this, but he's not actively fighting it (and I think that's a mistake).

Even worse, not producing a well-done official YouTube channel leaves tons of money on the table.  The revenue stream from new CD sales of Garth Brooks music just has to pale in comparison to the advertising revenue stream from an official Garth channel.  Plus, YouTube is a whole new audience, so cannibalization of the CD market should be a minor concern.

It is hard to question a marketing decision of the greatest-selling solo performer of all time, but the choice to shun iTunes and (especially) YouTube just seems wrong to me.  It is all the more puzzling when you see what a cool idea the made-for-TV production + release of the new bundle of music is.


  1. I also watched the show last night. I totally agree with your comments. I think you should forward this to Garth's marketing manager! It's time they both get their heads out of their rear ends and realize that this is the 21st century!!

  2. Brooks' specific beef with iTunes is that it won't let him only sell albums and not individual tracks. This of course doesn't make his reasoning particularly valid, but I suppose it's worth knowing that he's not just shunning technology for the sake of technology. Also, if he were in a different genre or a couple of decades younger, he would be so screwed by his choices.

    1. On iTunes, I knew that, but the post went another direction (so I chose to not mention that for the sake of losing focus). Thanks for bringing it up. Regarding technology in general, I don't think his specific beef with iTunes carries over to his lack of YouTube presence, which could be as costly as his higher-profile iTunes feud.

  3. People just don't get it and that amazes me. For Garth it's not about profit and it NEVER was. Even when he was doing those massive, sold out, wild and crazy concerts (which were awesome BTW) it wasn’t about money. It was about the MUSIC.

    What you saw or should have seen on the show from the Wynn was Garth's love for music, not just his but other artists as well. I've seen the show live at the Wynn and it does miss something in translation on TV with the commercials and such. But slapping a break to sell laundry soap in his show every 15 minutes wasn't Garth's choice, CBS did that. Likewise charging audience members to attend the concert at the Wynn was NOT Garth's choice, it was the decision of the owner of the casino.

    Garth would have done the concerts for free, as he did countless charity concerts over the last decade, not taking a single penny in payment. The concert at the Wynn was supposed to be a 2 hour show, the one I attended lasted 2 hours and 35 minutes because Garth wanted, needed, to make sure every single person in that room with him had the best experience ever! He even said that he wasn't leaving the stage until he made every single one of us feel the love and passion for the music that he does and he succeeded.

    His “beef” with iTunes isn't because he's scared of new technology or any of the other strange mumbo jumbo theories people (mostly attached to iTunes) have put out there. Once again it's about the music. When an Artist agrees to put their music on iTunes they hand all control of that music to iTunes. They have no say in anything that's done with it at all. Garth LOVES his music, it's almost like a fourth child to him. He gave up his career at it's peek, when he was making the most money ever to raise it daughters. You don't honestly think he would hand one of them over for profit, for money, for some extra cash in his wallet do you? Aren't there things in your life you wouldn't give away for all the money in the world?

    Garth isn't just “anti” iTunes either. Try looking for his music on any online music service, you won't find it and for the same reasons. Kid Rock, The Beatles and many other Artists held out for a long time too because they believed as Garth did but finally the appeal of the all mighty dollar won out.

  4. chelley_lynn (part two)December 3, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    As far as not having a YouTube channel, once more for Garth it's about the music, it's about protecting it as though he's protecting one of his kids. Do you think he would put pictures/videos of his daughters on the internet so any tom, harry or pedophile could take them, manipulate them, distort them or do who knows what with them? Would you?

    Garth's choice to keep his videos off YouTube was and is because once they are there they have NO protection. People can copy them, record them, convert them to mp3s or put them on there Ipods. To Garth people doing this isn't about all the money he'd lose from it being done, it's the fact that something he loves like a child would be being violated over and over and over again. Being used, abused, mistreated and in the end devalued.

    Garth is the last hold out (I believe) from this whole “online” music wave and personally I think it's AWESOME. I respect him so much for his decision to not give in, to not cave to the masses. To stand strong against overwhelming opposition especially when many of them are people you care for so, so much. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do (I know for I've done it) and Garth LOVES his fans, they are like extended family to him. But he loves his music, his children, more. As every parent should.

    If you want the “full” Wynn concert experience or the closest you're going to get to it, buy the boxed set from Wal-Mart. Regular price is $29.96...think about that for a minute and it should tell you, show you, prove to you that for Garth it's not about money or profit. 6 Cds and 2 DVDs for $29.96 works out to $3.75 each...doesn't seem to me that Garth is going to be rolling in the dough on that deal, does it to you?

    The boxed set is Garth's way of sharing with his fans, sharing his music, his passion for all music and most importantly sharing himself like he has never EVER done before. You want to know Garth, buy the set. I bought 3, didn't have to stand in line either. Black Friday started at at 12:01 am Thursday. See, Garth isn't totally anti internet technology :-)

  5. I would like to buy that set too, but being from Europe, I am completely unable to do so!
    So why are certain fans locked out, even though todays internet is the perfect way to bring them in!?

    1. I agree entirely. If Brooks' motives were entirely about maximizing the fans' enjoyment, the internet is a great way to do that. And, an official YouTube channel is a great way to be a good steward to his songs, while gaining as large of an audience as possible.

    2. You can buy it from Amazon here...

      First listing has it for $37.97 and does do International Shipping. Sure that's more expensive then on Walmarts website and you have to pay shipping but they do ship to pretty much everywhere in the world.

      There are also several listed on ebay that will ship to some countries in Europe. Some of the prices and shipping costs are ridiculous. You just have to look through them and use your best judgement.

      Just because something is sold "exclusively" somewhere in this day and age of online purchasing doesn't mean you can't buy it somewhere else. You might have to pay more for it, but if you really want it, you can get it and it's usually worth the extra money.

      I order rare and unusual things from all over the world often and I've never regretted the extra cost. There are just some things more valuable then money :-)

  6. Garth has said himself that low ticket prices are a great way to get more people in the door with more money in their pocket so they can buy more merch. Maybe it is about the music first, but you can't say it isn't at about the money at all. His college degree is in marketing, for crying out loud! I'm also perplexed a little by his allegiance to Wal-Mart, especially since Sam Walton isn't around anymore, and Wal-Mart is not what it was when he was alive.

  7. Garth has said himself that his strategy behind low ticket prices is to get more people in the shows, with money left over to buy merch. Sure, it's all about the music, but he was a genius in the 90s at making a buck as well. His college degree is in marketing! I'm concerned that he's not as powerful as he once was, and without joining us in the 21st century, his comeback could get squelched pretty quickly. I'm also perplexed by his allegiance to Wal-Mart. I get that he looked up to Sam Walton, but Mr. Walton is no longer alive and his company has strayed so far from his original vision that it's embarrassing.


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