15 October 2009

Garth Brooks vs. iTunes

The following is taken from a response I posted to the macrumors.com forum.  In one of Garth Brooks's two (yes, two) press conferences, he insisted that iTunes is "killing" the music industry through its practice of selling songs individually, rather than exclusively as albums.

Well (and this is coming from a fan of Garth's), remember this is the same guy who tried to thwart used CD sales nearly 20 years ago. And, on paper, to an extent, he's right. When an entire album goes platinum, every session player and songwriter is entitled to royalties (the poor collection and distribution of which, is another debate). When fans cherry-pick specific songs, only those players and writers are entitled to royalties.

I side with the artists on one issue, at least. I have grown very tired hearing people look at a CD and declare that "There's only one or two good songs on here." What that really means is, "I've only heard one or two songs on here." Typically, this is because those people only hear what singles are pushed on radio or get exposure online. Many a time, I've bought an album and been disappointed by which album cuts were passed over as singles, and I know I'm not alone in this.

Now, here's the thing I would say to Garth about this. Firstly, as others have noted, digital sales can easily be restricted to entire album purchases. Secondly, while I appreciate his point about how useless radio and iPods would be with no music playing, I would ask him how relevant an artist's work is with no audience to appreciate it. See, it cuts both ways.

I could even understand it if Garth's only concern was piracy, but he seems not to get the value of music portability (carrying an iPod the size of a cassette is much easier than even an album of CD's), or the appeal of customizability. Mix tapes pre-date the digital world anyway, so it seems rather pointless to resist them at this point. Just the other night, I made a playlist in my iTunes library of Garth songs appropriate for an insomniac. And Garth? I bought all the CD's brand new--even double-dipping for both boxed sets. And if you want to get into the nitty gritty, how about including a 12-track version of The Lost Sessions in your second boxed set just three months before issuing a 17-track standalone version?

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