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Brooks Puts His Brand on New Pact : Contracts: The country star’s new deal with Liberty Records features a royalty rate that rivals any in the business.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Country star Garth Brooks has lassoed a brand-new recording contract--and it’s believed to be one of the largest and most uniquely structured deals ever negotiated.

The 20-year pact with Thorn-EMI-owned Liberty Records, which has released all five of Brooks’ albums, waives the multimillion-dollar “advances” customarily found in superstar contracts in favor a royalty rate that rivals the highest in the industry.

“I’m just glad the negotiations are over with and we can get back to the business of fulfilling what I think is one of the most unique careers I’ve seen in my 38 years in the music industry,” Jimmy Bowen, president and chief executive officer of the Nashville-based Liberty Records, said Thursday from Hawaii where he is vacationing.

Bowen and other representatives for Brooks, Liberty and Capitol EMI-Music declined to discuss specifics of the pact, but sources said the 30-year-old singer will receive almost 50% of the profits from each album he sells in the United States. That rate is said to match Michael Jackson’s much-touted 1991 pact with Sony Music--and to surpass Madonna and Prince deals with the Warner Music Group.

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Brooks--who reportedly played a strong hand in the lengthy negotiations--has sold more than $400 million in records since his 1989 debut album, according to Liberty. Last year alone, sales of his five albums made up more than $177 million of EMI Music’s $2-billion-plus annual revenues.

All provisions of the new deal--which was negotiated by a team of EMI Music executives including Joe Smith, Jim Fifield and Bowen plus Brooks’ business manager Kerry O’Neil--are reportedly retroactive to April, 1992.

Unlike superstars such as Madonna and Prince who have demanded cash advances of $5 million to $10 million per album, Brooks opted to receive no cash advances and will pay for all recording and music video costs out of his own pocket, sources said. He used to receive a 16% royalty rate and about $500,000 cash advance per album.

Brooks, who owed Liberty Records six more albums when negotiations began, is not obligated to deliver any specific number of albums nor required to participate in scheduled tours for the length of the contract, sources said. When the contract expires in the year 2012, ownership of the copyrights to Brooks’ master recordings will revert to the artist.

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In contrast to Madonna’s and Michael Jackson’s multimedia deals, Brooks’ contract reportedly allows him to pursue film, TV, book, video, tour and merchandising agreements elsewhere.

Reaction in entertainment circles to the agreement was positive.

Eric Kronfeld, president and chief operating officer of PolyGram Holding Inc., the company that distributes country rival Billy Ray Cyrus’ 5-million selling album, applauded the deal.

“Garth blazed the trail for other Nashville artists like Billy Ray,” Kronfeld said. “If somebody would give PolyGram an artist who sells as many records annually as Garth does, I would be the first to recommend that this company give him a joint venture.”


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