Garth Brooks is good at business. At SXSW on Friday, the country star - who's getting ready for a four show run at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, beginning Friday night - was a music conference keynote speaker at the Austin Convention Center.
Brooks, who has an advertising degree from Oklahoma State University and went back at got an MBA from the school in 2011, was introduced as "the #1 selling solo artist in U.S. history." As he took the stage, he joked "you read it exactly as I wrote it."
Rather than addressing the badge wearing conference goers in a speech, however, Brooks' keynote was framed as an interview conducted by Wall Street Journal reporter Hannah Karp, who posed questions to both Brooks and Steve Boom, a digital music executive at Amazon, with whom the snger has struck a deal to exclusively stream his music.
The talk was mostly about the music business. Boom talked about Brooks' role in "the mainstreaming of streaming" and how Alexa, the voice interaction personal assistant interface to go with the company's Echo device is meant to "take friction out of the equation." In other words, make it as easy as possible for people to who are not early adopters to learn to use Amazon's streaming service by simply saying, "Alexa, play Garth Brooks."
Brooks, for his part, had plenty of astute stuff to say. He expressed concern that Nashville's country songwriting population has been depleted because of the lack of publishing income that writers used to earn from deep cuts on albums that no longer sell well. He talked about the undying loyalty of country fans. And he wondered how fans are going to find new music in an on-demand streaming world where technology is better at playing you songs you already know you want to hear, rather than ones you probably would want to hear, if you only knew what they were. "Discovery is my question with streaming," he said.
Brooks plays an outdoor show at SXSW tonight, and will be at the Wells Fargo with his wife Trisha Yearwood opening on Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday.
Previously: A night out at SXSW
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