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Distrib disturbs Brooks, who isn’t sold on used CDs

Retailers who were relieved at Garth Brooks’ apparent backpedaling on his stand against used compact discs might start worrying again.

Sources close to the country music singer insist he has not changed his mind and is “upset with the news” that CEMA — which distributes for his label, Liberty Records — is going to sell to retailers who market used CDs.

Brooks had insisted that Liberty and CEMA not sell his upcoming release to stores selling used CDs. The singer claims the sale of used discs takes money away from the artists and musicians featured on the albums.

CEMA quietly began notifying retailers Thursday that stores carrying used product will be able to buy the new Brooks album, “In Pieces,” which is due Aug. 31.

However, the move will not affect the decision by four of the big six distribs to withhold cooperative advertising funds from retailers who deal in used CDs.

U, Sony and WEA have joined CEMA in their decision not to provide the co-op funds, which has made the four distribs targets of several antitrust lawsuits brought by retailers.

“The decision by CEMA does not have any effect on our lawsuit,” said Bruce Jesse, spokesman for Wherehouse Entertainment. “Although we think the news is a win for both Garth fans and our customers, our lawsuit remains in place. The underlying issue (of withholding coop funds) has not been resolved.”

While representatives for Brooks and CEMA declined comment, sources close to Brooks say the singer has complained to CEMA head Russ Bach about the distrib’s decision.

“Although (Garth) understands they are responding to the advice of their lawyers, he’s not pleased they are no longer supporting him,” the source said.

Sources say CEMA was concerned about solidifying the accusations made in the suits if the distribs actually withheld product from retailers. The source says CEMA’s legal counsel has advised the distrib to back away from the sale ban tactic.

Some wags suggested that Brooks reneged in an effort to combat the negative publicity or because he was named in the pending litigation. But cynics implied that the notoriety has actually helped the singer.

Said one retailer, “I think it’s fair to say a lot more people are aware that Garth has a new album coming out than they were before all this broke.”

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