583 113 5 LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE

Garth Brooks announced his retirement in 2000, three months before the launch of iTunes. But when the 52-year-old country superstar begins selling his catalog digitally, perhaps as early as this week, he could set records even while bypassing Apple's music service entirely.

Already the top-selling artist in the USA since 1991 (when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales), Brooks stands to dramatically increase his total album sales with downloads, which he'll offer exclusively through garthbrooks.com. He'll likely become the best-selling solo act in history almost immediately — even before he releases his first comeback single.

EARLIER: He's back! Garth Brooks announces new music, world tour

ALSO: Garth Brooks closing in on the big seven-oh (in sales)

"People are going to mistake (what I'm doing) for giving it away, but I'm not," he told reporters when he announced his digital intentions earlier this month, saying sales would begin in the next several weeks. He promised an opportunity for fans "to get it all at a stupid price," suggesting he'll offer a bargain to those who download the entire catalog.

"It's probably going to make a big, big splash," says David Bakula, a senior vice president for Nielsen Entertainment, which operates SoundScan. "The closer you get to free, the more you'll probably have a bunch of people who weren't really big fans and wouldn't have gone out and bought a new album (think), 'My, gosh, for that price I can have the whole thing? Yeah.' "

RELATED: Garth Brooks to kick off tour Sept. 4

The singer released eight studio albums between 1989 and 2001, plus his Double Live album, two Christmas sets and one disc released under the Chris Gaines pseudonym. Subsequent box sets contained five discs of new recordings.

Brooks won't give Katy Perry competition as the top-selling digital singles artist, because he almost certainly won't make any of his tracks available for individual purchase, a sticking point in his negotiations with iTunes.

But if he sells a million downloads of his 18-disc catalog — a possibility, considering that he sold almost a million copies last year of Blame It All On My Roots, a Walmart-exclusive box set containing four discs of cover songs — he'll blow past Elvis Presley in gold and platinum album certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America. (To date, he's sold 134 million to Elvis' 134.5 million.)

If Brooks finds a way to sell a second million of his catalog, catching up to The Beatles (177 million) would look like a very reachable goal, and just in time for him to release a promised studio album this fall.

To meet the RIAA's pricing requirements for certification, Brooks would need to charge only $2 for the equivalent of each disc. Making the Billboard charts could be a little trickier.

If Brooks packaged his catalog as a digital box set, it would qualify as a new release. To make it eligible to appear on Billboard's sales charts, he'd have to set a price of at least $3.49 per disc, according to the trade publication's pricing policy.

However, "if he's just reissuing his old albums, he can sell them for basically whatever he wants and still have them count" toward chart positions, says Keith Caulfield, Billboard's associate director of charts/sales.

"His history with selling music and charting with music has always been really fascinating and really interesting," says Caulfield. "I look forward to finding out what Garth will be doing, just like everybody else is."

583 113 5 LINKEDIN 4 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1mxPY0O