In an announcement that the Internet doesn’t seem to care about at all, Garth Brooks says he’s giving up the Ghost… Tunes.
Last week, Billboard interviewed arguably the biggest country star of the 90s about his recent deal with Amazon music. That’s where Garth Brooks’ content is now exclusively available for streaming. The plan is to start with four albums this year and eventually release the whole catalog once he also finishes up an exclusive deal with Target to carry his upcoming 10-disc box set.
Garth Brooks is one of the last big holdouts from the major streaming services. He’s one of those “I make albums to be enjoyed as albums” guys. Which seems like a hypocritical stance to take when you break them up to sell greatest hits albums. And yes, that’s plural.
Garth also wants to make sure any service he uses will also have his content available for people to purchase, not just stream. Say what you will about him, but the man’s still an optimist.
According to his interview with Billboard, Spotify didn’t work for him because they don’t sell albums. And Apple doesn’t work because “iTunes had their own rules”, which probably means he wasn’t going to get the cut he wanted. Garth Brooks actually resisted other services so hard that in 2014 he launched GhostTunes, his own digital marketplace. And it looks like he’s set to abandon that.
Somewhat buried halfway into the interview, when asked about the future of his music service, Garth Brooks said this:
GhostTunes stays up to make sure that all the things that they promised, 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.
So why isn’t this getting more press?
1) Because it’s not the 90s and Garth Brooks is a lot less popular now than he was 20 years ago. So very few people care where he puts his music; and
2) I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first time some of you are hearing about GhostTunes.
The IFPI reports that streaming is up and downloads are down, a trend that has been going on for some time. And since GhostTunes is all downloads and no streaming, it doesn’t take an accounting genius to know how they’re likely doing financially.
But this is almost the equivalent of Jay-Z quitting Tidal. Or Neil Young saying to hell with Pono Music (which probably wouldn’t be a bad idea; DMN reported back in July that the Pono site went offline without warning for “several weeks”. It’s been over 3 months since that announcement).
I say “almost” because they aren’t exclusive to their own services (both Jay-Z and Neil Young have music available on their own competitors’ services). Garth has all but said he’s not going down with the ship, he’s taking the first lifeboat and letting the women and children fend for themselves. Of course, no one else but the man who started it would be foolish enough to have their content exclusive to GHOSTTUNES, so I’m sure every other artist on the service won’t even notice the shutdown (and possibly doesn’t even know their content is on there now).
Although GhostTunes promised better revenue sharing for its partners, the consumer doesn’t care.
The consumer doesn’t want to have to log into a bunch of different accounts. They don’t want to go to a bunch of different websites to get their music. And Kanye West, Beyonce and Frank Ocean have shown us that exclusives lead to even more piracy.
If the content is not conveniently available on the service the customer has chosen to shell out money for, they’re not willing to shell out more, because the customer already feels like they’re doing artists a favor by spending ANY money at all. In the digital age, musicians are seen as buskers. The audience will listen to your music for free. And MAYBE if they’re feeling generous, they’ll drop a buck in your guitar case.
So consider this the first eulogy for GhostTunes. And probably the last (if any other sites actually report on it when it’s gone). If you’re looking for a really lame office pool, start betting on the month in 2017 you think GhostTunes will shut down for good. If GhostTunes Ain’t Going Down Til The Sun Comes Up, it looks like daylight’s starting to peak over the horizon.
It was a ‘Good Ride, Cowboy’. But the service likely won’t be ‘More Than a Memory’ in a year from now.
Note: Buckley doesn’t understand why artists just don’t use Bandcamp… he made ten whole dollars yesterday!
Top image by Terri Heisele, licensed from freeimages.com.