AUSTIN — Garth Brooks is making the most of his first visit to South By Southwest.
In addition to doing a keynote Friday afternoon, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year also announced a free outdoor show for Saturday at Lady Bird Lake, sponsored by Amazon Music, which Brooks did an exclusive streaming deal with in October 2016.
He also got to hear the premiere of his new single Ask Me How I Know played live on Austin's KASE-FM country radio station. "It sounds a hell of a lot better on this system that in it does in my truck," he said in a press conference Friday morning here at the Austin Convention Center.
Brooks also hinted at a possible surprise show for later in the evening. "I'm not really sure what all is going on," he said. "I know I ate breakfast this morning so I'm ready to go however late we go."
Brooks discussed his decision in October 2016 to enter into an exclusive streaming deal with Amazon and its on-demand Amazon Music Unlimited subscription service ($7.99 monthly for Amazon Prime members, $9.99 for others)
While Brooks respected Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek ("He's a good guy that understands music") and Apple Music's team ("I'm never going to change to fit their rules"), Amazon offered the full package: streaming, album downloads and physical CDs, said Brooks, who never used the competing companies' names calling them "the other guys."
He expects special releases and archival music including demo tracks to be available eventually. "New, old, everything becomes possible with these guys," Brooks said.
When asked whether consumers deserve the right to buy individual album tracks, Brooks asked the reporter what his wedding song was. The answer Fools Rush In (Elvis Presley's version of the Johnny Mercer song). "That might be one of the greatest songs ever recorded," Brooks said. "Is it worth more than 99 cents? ... That song alone is worth 10 bucks."
Royalties from album tracks keep songwriters in business, he says.
And some of the strongest cuts on an album may not be the hits, he said. "I can't imagine Hotel California without Pretty Maids All in a Row," Brooks said during his afternoon keynote speech.
Face to Face, a song on his album The Chase, a song about date rape is "a really dark song about having the courage to stand up for yourself." That won't be played on the radio, Brooks said, however, "I can't tell you how many letters that song has been credited with saving lives."
"The definition of a commercial single is what song is not going to piss off the most people," he said. "But I want the songs that make a difference in my life, that become my anthem that isn’t your anthem. That is what makes music priceless."
Brooks said that he began doing a weekly Facebook Live "Inside Studio G" event to connect with his fans. "I am just talking about me, so please don't associate this with anybody else that has been in the press lately that's tweeting their ass off," he said. "For me just throwing it out there and throwing it out there, I don't dig that. ... I want interaction, I want back and forth."
Technological upgrades coming to Facebook Live will make the dialogue "be like in this room," he said. "That's where we are headed."
Asked about his thoughts about the festival, Brooks said, "you hear the myth, the story, the legend and you come down and see this is ran very cool. Everything goes on time."
He noticed that "there’s a freshness on everybody’s face down here. And that freshness is all about is content. That's what I love. We’re going to talk technology but the truth is everything is based on content. So to get somewhere where content is king, that’s where I want to park and where I want live, right there."
"Between the gaming, the movies and the music (at the festival) this is the place to be if you want to know what’s happening and feel like you are 20 years old again," Brooks said.
Copyright USA Today