Brooks, feeling used, has warnings for retailers

Country singer Garth Brooks continued his push against used CDs Tuesday, warning retailers that distributors may not support them if their interests are not protected. The singer also professed disbelief that other artists and unions have not supported his efforts.

Brooks’ remarks came during a press conference to promote the release of his latest album, “In Pieces,” which went on sale Tuesday.

The singer used the opportunity to espouse his views on the used-CD controversy in light of the recent reversal on the issue by his distributor, CEMA, which will now allow stores that sell used discs to carry his new album. CEMA had originally told used-CD retailers they would not be sold new product or be eligible for cooperative advertising funds (the joint label-retailer advertising that is key to recorded music marketing).

That move by CEMA had prompted several lawsuits, including one from Wherehouse Entertainment, the largest retail chain offering used CDs.

Although CEMA reversed itselflast week and Wherehouse says it will remove them from the suit, three other distribs — Uni, Sony and WEA — remain defendants. WEA announced Monday it was changing its policy, and will restore co-op ad support for retailers selling used CDs, with Uni in line for a reversal as well. Sony remains firm on its ban, according to insiders.

Brooks had a warning for retailers who challenge distribs on the used-CD issue, suggesting they not bite the hand that feeds them.

“Retailers better take care of their distributors like CEMA, because the first chance that they get they’re gonna need them, don’t bank on CEMA being there,” Brooks said. “If I treated you like dirt, and there comes a time when you have a choice to be with me or someone else. Be ready to pay the consequences.”

Brooks also pointed to ads indicating that Wherehouse is selling his new album for a low price of $ 10.88, something that confuses the singer. “Everybody’s bitching they can’t sell the new CD at a high cost (and) they say they can’t bring it down and make a dime on it. Yet they’re selling it at the lowest price ever.”

Bruce Jesse, marketing VP and spokesman for Wherehouse, said the $ 10.88 price was a “business decision to offer a great price on a high-demand title. Customers have told us low prices are what it takes to keep product flowing.”

The singer also expressed surprise that he is the sole artist speaking out. “Everybody and their dog is waiting to see if my ass gets shot off on this one,” Brooks said. “I’m heartbroken and very disappointed at the amount of non-artist turnout. I’m very disappointed that the unions aren’t screaming. I don’t understand where ASCAP and BMI are.”

Brooks also spoke of his upcoming Texas Stadium stand (Sept. 23 — 26), which will be filmed for an NBC special to air next year. The concert will include pyrotechnics and riggings allowing Brooks to fly over the audience.

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