Garth Brooks picks Amazon to stream for first time
Amazon's Music Unlimited service reels in its first music exclusive, and it's a big fish: Brooks ranks between the Beatles and Elvis in all-time sales.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Exclusives like the one announced Wednesday with Brooks are a core strategy of subscription music services including Apple Music, Tidal and now Amazon. They're all grappling to keep you out of the grips of Spotify, the biggest subscription music service worldwide by subscribers.
But Amazon's score with Brooks is unique.
Most subscription exclusives are buzzy, new albums like "Blonde" by Frank Ocean on Apple Music or "Lemonade" by Beyoncé on Tidal. Here, Amazon has secured the first streaming music ever by one of history's most successful musicians.
Brooks is the best-selling solo artist in US history, trumping Elvis Presley, according to the music industry's trade group. And only three other artists or groups have been on Billboard's Top 200 albums charts longer, stretching back more than 50 years: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Barbra Streisand.
Perhaps the best parallel to Amazon's exclusive here might be The Beatles finally caving to iTunes and allowing Apple to sell digital downloads in 2010. But when it came to streaming, even The Beatles -- bar none, the biggest-selling group of all time -- became available on multiple competitors simultaneously last December.
Amazon is also unique in its pricing advantage. Tidal and Apple Music hunt down big-name exclusives because they can't compete with Spotify on price. They charge $10 a month without a free or discounted tier, while Spotify is the only service of its kind allowed to stream free, on-demand tunes with advertising. But Amazon Music Unlimited has finagled a special price of $4 a month if listeners stream only on Amazon's voice-activated Echo speakers.
Music Unlimited secured Brooks' latest single, "Baby, Let's Lay Down and Dance," released last week, as well as a double-disc hits album and a two-disc live performance record. The company said it will add more of his music later this year, including Brooks' latest studio album and a new holiday record with his wife, country star Trisha Yearwood.
The live album, "Double Live," is also available on Amazon's Prime Music, which offers a limited catalog of songs to members of its $99-a-year Prime program, best known for free two-day shipping.
Prime members must pay $8 extra a month to unlock the wider library of Music Unlimited. In addition to the $4-a-month Echo-only price, any consumer can subscribe to Music Unlimited for $10 a month. Music Unlimited is currently available in the US, but Amazon plans to widen it this year to the UK, Germany and Austria.