Garth Brooks, long a holdout from allowing his music to be sold on iTunes, lifted the lid Thursday on his alternative, GhostTunes, a new download and streaming service that the newly unretired country superstar said "allows artists to sell music any way they want to."
Brooks' beef with iTunes is that it is grounded in selling singles, while Brooks says he wants his music sold as complete albums to protect the songwriters and music publishers who depend on income from tracks included on those recordings.
As the opening salvo for GhostTunes, Brooks introduced "The Bundle," a $29.99 digital package that will include all eight of his studio albums, a new studio album coming this fall and another he's planning to release next year, plus a 25th anniversary edition of his "Double Live" album.
Beyond his own music, Brooks said GhostTunes is a digital store offering more than 7 million singles and albums by hundreds of other artists. Iggy Azalea, Coldplay, Kimbra, Ariana Grande, Miranda Lambert, Sia,
Brooks is a part owner in GhostTunes, a small company that he said he hopes "will remain small. We don't want the corporations wagging the tail of the dog" of digital music sales, he said.
Other artists, he said, can choose from among a variety of options, such as selling individual tracks, albums only, streaming only or downloading only. "The difference is," Brooks said, "is that the copyright owner gets to make that decision."
GhostTunes will make selected music instantly available to a consumer's "locker," and accessible through devices such as smartphones, tablets or personal computers in a format not proprietary to any single manufacturers' technology (details about the digital format GhostTunes will use were not immediately available).
Another element of GhostTunes that Brooks said attracted him is that music is the only product it sells.
Brooks is the biggest selling artist in Nielsen SoundScan history, having sold just shy of 70 million albums since SoundScan began tracking retail sales in 1991. That figure puts him ahead of the Beatles from 1991 to the present, but it does not include the sales figures pre-1991.
He said his singles will be available for sale -- he released a new track, "People Loving People" on Thursday -- but Brooks stipulated that for his own music: "Singles will be pre-orders for the album. If someone hears the single and they don't like it, they've got radio to listen to. If they hear the second single and they like and decide maybe I want this, they can order it as a pre-order for the album."
Brooks characterized the album format as "what keeps the business going," because multiple songwriters typically benefit from sales of full albums.
Taking on the monolithic iTunes is a reflection of his lifelong reputation as a tough competitor in business matters.
"There should be more than one major" downloading service, Brooks told the Los Angeles Times. "But if one of the majors decides to take up this strategy and GhostTunes goes out of business," he added with a smile, "then music wins."