Garth Brooks at CRS 2019 Town Hall: ‘There’s Food, Air, Water and Music’
Garth Brooks joined Amazon Music's Steve Boom for a town hall discussion on Day 2 (Feb. 14) of the 2019 Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, Tenn. Most of their conversion centered on Brooks' exclusive streaming deal with Amazon Music Unlimited, with the country star explaining why he chose Amazon over other streaming services, discussing radio and sharing what he expects for the future.
Brooks and Amazon sealed their deal about two years ago, before SXSW in 2017, where the country superstar and Amazon's Boom appeared on a panel together. Brooks and his team had explored streaming options with other services, but couldn't quite reach an agreement. Amazon, though, came up with an arrangement and procured Brooks' catalog in full.
Because of its large role in streaming on the megasite, Amazon's Alexa device was a hot topic of conversation: "If we had Alexa when George Strait's first album came out, I'd have worn that lady out," Brooks said with a laugh.
"Let's get the car radio into the house," Brooks says he told Boom about the device, which offers more than 40,000 local radio stations at consumers' streaming convenience. This accessibility encompasses the entire country music radio market.
Understandably, radio programmers have voiced concerns about radio's future because of streaming technology. However, Brooks posited, "Terrestrial radio is an 800-pound gorilla. It ain't goin' nowhere. What [Amazon and other streaming services have] got that no one else has is discovery."
Amazon wants to use Alexa to expand on that sense of discovery. Brooks and Boom both discussed the possibility of a technology that categorizes music by not only artists but by writers, producers, musicians and more. The key to that idea becoming a reality is in organizing metadata.
Boom also mentioned a feature of the Alexa device that allows users to ask it to play music they haven't heard in a while, much like picking a dusty CD from a shelf: "It's not just discovering music," he says, "it's rediscovering your old favorites."
Brooks himself has always been an advocate for full albums; in the past, he's chosen not to sell single songs on iTunes, only allowing album purchases. It's part of the reason he trusted Amazon to stream his discography. The country star had much to say about the industry's turn from albums to singles, a change that he's been vocal about for years.
"Labels are doing what they can to survive," he critiqued, "and the way to survive is to cut everything down to singles." Brooks also quipped about how a majority of these singles, manufactured for radio airplay, are written by the same handful songwriters on Music Row, asking, "Is this the reason some things are starting to sound just like other things?"
Brooks hopes that, through Amazon, diversity in music will increase, and the album will come back into focus for listeners. One method to achieve that change is a push for physical album sales. Though Brooks didn't allude much to his upcoming record, Fun, which is set for release sometime this spring, he did comment that he wanted to use Amazon streaming to promote sales.
"This now opens the window for radio to be part of retail," Brooks notes.
Amazon is the No. 1 retailer worldwide of vinyl records, and a one-stop shop for anything and everything consumers need. Having the power to purchase items from a voice-detection device or a phone app could make obtaining music even easier for fans. Brooks described music as a "need," one that Amazon can (literally) deliver.
"There's food, air, water and music," Brooks says.
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