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Garth Brooks to launch digital download service GhostTunes

11/10/2014 02:20 EST | Updated 01/10/2015 05:59 EST
Country music star Garth Brooks has launched an iTunes competitor, GhostTunes, which aims to give artists more freedom over how their work is released.

Brooks, who has refused to allow any online store to sell his music, says he will offer 10 million digital songs by thousands of artists on the site.

GhostTunes, a name that grew out of Brooks’s nickname "G," launches Tuesday.

Brooks, one of country music’s biggest stars, will use GhostTunes to sell his latest album Man Against the Machine, his first in 13 years, as well as much of his back catalogue.

The site is designed to let artists decide how they want their work to be marketed — as singles or albums or bundled with merchandise or concert tickets.

More money goes to the artist

The site encourages artists to offer discounts to boost their sales and returns 80 per cent of sales to musicians, labels and publishers, compared with 70 per cent allotted by iTunes and Amazon.

Brooks is selling a package of nine of his studio albums, along with some live material and a 2015 release for $29.99 US.

Songs are selling from $1.14 to $1.29 each, but many albums by winners of Country Music Awards have been listed for as little as $3.49 each, undercutting iTunes.

The new concept digital site highlights the sometimes uncomfortable relationship artists have with digital marketers, coming just after Taylor Swift’s decision not to offer her work on streaming service Spotify because it wants to bundle her songs with ads.

Swift, 24, hasn’t made her new album, 1989, available for streaming on any subscription service, and she was able to sell nearly 1.3 million copies in the U.S. in its first week on the market, according to SoundScan.

Artists seek better returns

Artists have been unhappy about how much return they receive from streaming and digital sales. Brooks, who became a big star in the 1990s, may particularly notice the difference between digital returns and old-style albums and CD music sales.

Nor do services such as iTunes and Spotify allow the artists themselves to control how their music is marketed. GhostTunes offers artists the option of giving an in-depth description of their work or themselves.

Brooks has recruited country artists such as Trisha Yearwood, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley to the site, but also other genres, including hip hop, pop and comedy.

The GhostTunes CEO is Randy Bernard, who formerly ran the Professional Bull Riders Inc. organization, as well as the IndyCar auto-racing sanctioning body.

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