The King of Country and the King of Marketing: Garth Brooks

Nothing is by accident for Garth Brooks. Every single move is planned and thought through before the general public even has an inkling of what the third-highest record selling artist of all-time has up his sleeve.

A quick basic background on Garth: he retired in the early 2000’s to raise his girls while they went through elementary and high school and vowed to return after his last child went off to college. His last child has left for college and Garth is out of retirement with a full-fledged world tour and new album. The man who dominated and revolutionized country music, and music as a whole, in the 1990’s has returned to his loving fans. Garth paved the way for country artists like Taylor Swift to convert over to the pop scene. Don’t hold that against him.

Garth is the king of marketing. It’s the subject that he majored in at Oklahoma State University and it shows in everything that he does in the public eye. If you see Garth across any newsfeed it’s because he wanted to be there in that exact moment.

Let’s start with the latest example: Garth Brooks goes social.

For years and years, Garth has avoided social media like it was the black plague. He didn’t touch it. The closest thing you could find to a legitimate Garth source on Twitter was his wife, fellow country star Trisha Yearwood, or the account for his charity, Teammates for Kids. That’s all you could find. There was no official Garth Facebook page either. There was the awkward shell of one that Facebook pulled together from the Wikipedia listing of the country icon, but that’s all that could be found. That changed on Tuesday when Garth went social.

If you follow anything country, or really anything celebrity related, you got a message on Tuesday that announced the arrival of Garth across three social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Garth already has over a million likes on Facebook and over 73,000 Twitter followers.

What was significant about Tuesday? It was also the release day of his first studio album in thirteen years. Garth bankrolled the press he would get for his Man Against Machine album and added to it the storm that he would get for joining social media. It’s a big story that the guy who isn’t on iTunes or Spotify joined the likes of the public in sometimes useless banter. Two big Garth stories on one day means about double the stories that are written about him. Garth knows all too well that he needs a lot of frequency. The more you see his name, the more likely you are to buy his album or buy anything from him.

The best thing is that Garth knows how to market this in a way that a lot of people won’t question it. In the first post on his new Facebook page Garth said that a friend told him to look at social media as a conversation directly between the artist and his followers. That might be a legitimate reason why Garth ‘changed’ his view on social media, but there’s no way that that friend told him the morning of his new album release and Garth somehow got meetings at Facebook and Twitter headquarters. Garth had this planned for a while. It might’ve been for a long time. Who knows? Well, more people than we probably think.

Brian Mansfield, music critic for USA Today, tweeted that Garth has had his current world tour planned out for years according to the infamous not named Nashville insiders. Maybe, just the skeleton of it, but Garth knows how to put together a body better than most. We don’t need to look far to see the evidence of this, in fact we just need to look at Garth’s tour stop in downtown Minneapolis at Target Center.

While Garth has been the home team for Target Center in November, it really is supposed to be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ home team. That hasn’t been true. The last home game the Timberwolves played at Target Center was on November 1. They won’t play their next home game at Target Center until November 19. That’s an unheard of stretch of days away from home for an NBA team. The funny thing is that the NBA schedule came out before Garth announced that he would be coming to Target Center. The NBA and Target Center just happened to schedule an awkwardly long road stretch for the Wolves? I don’t buy it.

Speaking of buying, Garth knew exactly how many tickets he’d be selling in Minnesota, or at least close to the number. I am convinced he knew he’d sell out more than four shows, the initial amount he offered. Garth knew that he was going to break his ticket record in Minneapolis like he did the last time he was in town. The headline looks a lot cooler for Garth if it says he added six, SIX, shows and sells out 11 compared to just selling out four shows.

I helped sell out those shows. I bought that album, twice. Yes, I bought the album twice: one physical copy and one digitally. It was the first album Garth has released digitally. He did it through a new online store he helped find called Ghosttunes because, well, more headlines. Oh, the physical copy? I wanted to be able to hold it in my hand, which is just me, but I also bought the ‘Limited Black Edition’ for four dollars more at Target. What’s special about the special ‘Limited Black Edition’? The color. Seriously, just the fact that the album cover has more black to it was enough for me, and thousands or millions more, to buy the same exact album for four dollars more.

Is it clear yet that Garth knows how to market? He knows how to market so well that I decided I should write about it for a Intro To Marketing Communications class required blog. Garth has marketed so well that the man has officially infiltrated my school work. That’s just the way the thunder rolls.

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Take Me To Church: Eric Church

SKULLI fell in love in the backseat of my friend’s truck. That sounds like the line to a horribly cheesy country song, but it’s true. They say you know when that moment of love hits and that moment for me was Sunday, December 4, 2011.

The Denver Broncos were in Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings. 2011, more specifically late 2011, was what will go down in history as ‘Tebow Time’. Tim Tebow was doing the miraculous while being a horribly flawed quarterback. I saw ‘Tebow Time’ in person, but that’s not what I fell in love with.

Young people don’t know what the radio is, so we listened to an iPod through the truck speakers for the whole 90-minute trip to and fro the stadium. Only one artist was played: Eric Church.

I’d known of Eric Church. Hell, I’d seen him in concert as the opening act for Sara Evans, but he never really captivated me. I loved ‘Smoke A Little Smoke’ and I had downloaded ‘Homeboy’ from the iTunes store, but it wasn’t until December 4, 2011, that I realized Eric Church was, well, a badass.

This guy captivated me the way only a couple other artists have. Eric Church captivated me so much that the next time I was at Best Buy, full disclosure I forced myself into a trip, I bought all three albums that Church had released to date.

I was sold.

‘Chief’, the most commercially successful album for Church thus far, was unlike any ‘country’ album I had ever heard. I say ‘country’ because Church has been quoted as saying that genres are an outdated concept. The earlier two albums weren’t as groundbreaking, but it was beyond solid typical country music.

The aviators that I wore turned from being in honor of my family’s obsession with Tom Cruise and ‘Top Gun’ to being because I wanted to be Eric Church. I wanted to be that guy that was on the album cover of ‘Chief’ and wore his glasses onstage.

I finally got to see the guy I wanted to be onstage again.

It was a ‘freakin’ Tuesday in Minneapolis’ and the Target Center was packed to the rafters. Internet connectivity was sketchy with 19,000 people and, I’d assume, 19,000 or so internet cable devices trying to SnapChat their friends. A problem I assume the Timberwolves never face.

Church ran through a blistering 23 songs with only two breaks, one of those breaks was hidden behind a video montage of the prelude to ‘Devil, Devil’ which is featured on his latest album ‘The Outsiders’.

The concert was heavy on ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘Chief’, but touched on all four of Church’s studio albums. Including his second single, ‘Two Pink Lines’ which was selected by a list Church gave a fan before the show and Church and his band didn’t know what they would be playing until ten seconds they were playing it.

Church laughed through the song, especially after forgetting the words to the second verse of the song that reached number 19 on the charts just eight short years ago.

The concert was insanely rocking, especially for what Church pointed out was a Tuesday. The energy, the all-encompassing stage, the attention of the crowd was always on Church and he gave a hell of a show off of that energy.

There’s a million things a guy that is a little biased towards Eric Church could say about the concert. He did the essential hits, he did the true fans’ favorite album cuts, he tied in ‘Born to Run’ in his breakout smash spectacular ‘Springsteen’.

A million memorable moments, but there is something insanely fun about one of your favorite artists having the same admiration you do for another one your favorite artists.

No one was singing ‘Born to Run’ louder than me and Eric Church in that moment.

I couldn’t put my finger on why I loved Eric Church so much until after the concert. I love reading the reviews of the concerts that I have just been to just so I can see how incredibly biased I am compared to the fellows that get paid to review concerts.

Both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune gave the show a thumbs-up. Both noted that the show was not the typical country concert because Eric Church is not the typical country act. Both papers compared Eric Church to other artists and that’s when it hit me.

Both Ross Raihala of the Pioneer Press, a must-follow on Twitter, and Jon Bream of the Star Tribune compared Church to Bruce Springsteen. Church will always be tied to the Boss since Church’s biggest single, he’ll probably never top it, shares the Boss’ last name. Bream also threw in Garth Brooks.

It clicked.

Eric Church is a beautiful combination of Bruce Springsteen and Garth Brooks.

Musically, Church is the country equivalent of Springsteen. Springsteen had remarkable commercial success with ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ and has had mild chart success around that, but nothing ever meeting that level again. Church had ‘Chief’ and that will be his penultimate commercial success. It brought out a lot of great radio hits while being a great piece of music, but he’s going to, and intentionally, stay directly out of the spotlight.

Church has said that’s why ‘The Outsiders’ is such an out of left field concept to some country music consumers. It’s real music, but it doesn’t need to be radio popular to be popular. Springsteen has built a career out of that and so will Church.

One of the best songs on ‘The Outsiders’, ‘Cold One’ only got to number 20 on the charts. ‘Cold One’ is remarkable well written and performed, but is not yet accepted, and might never be, by the bro-country loving radio listeners.

Church will continually sell out Target Centers and Xcel Energy Centers for a string of years and get modest airplay. Church is set music wise.

Garth Brooks comes in on the performance aspect. Church had his audience captivated the whole time he was on stage on Tuesday night. No one ever sat down. I’ve only seen Springsteen once, so take this with a grain of salt, but there was a time when everyone sat down.

Springsteen is a great performer and shows emotion onstage, but both Brooks and Church shove their emotions in your face, but in a very nice way. Garth and Church both continually are laughing onstage, not because something is funny, but they are both so happy they can’t help put laughing through the ear-to-ear smiles.

They scream. There’s so much emotion in their shows that both Church and Brooks at times will lean back and just scream. If you saw someone do this on the street, you’d be freaked out, but onstage it seems normal. Beyond normal.

Church’s music is deeper than anything on the radio, much like Springsteen. Brooks’ most commercial singles have never been insanely deep, but his show, just on DVD, is incredible.

I don’t know if I saw a rock show, a country concert or if I saw a disciple of that ‘Country Music Jesus’ Church sings about, but I finally know why he’s so captivating.

Church has taken the two best qualities of two of the best artists of all-time and is pulling himself up onto that pedestal with them.

December 4, 2011, was a big day for me. I saw my two favorite NFL teams face off with my friends, I had my first taste of the God-send that is Chipotle and I caught the lifelong earworm that is Eric Church.

I don’t know how to describe September 16, 2014. Eric Church said he’d expected we’d all have a ‘religious experience’ on Tuesday night. If that was ‘religious’, I’m going to be in the front pew of Church until the world burns down.

Eric Church Proves He’s A Badass, Fights Scalpers

Picture via: http://static.parade.condenast.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/eric-church-aviators-ftr.jpg
Picture via: http://static.parade.condenast.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/eric-church-aviators-ftr.jpg

Not that long ago, it was illegal to scalp tickets in the state of Minnesota. Everyone played by the same rules and paid face value for all ticketing wielding events from Twins to Theatre to Tina Turner Tickets. If you live in Minnesota and have ever tried to get into anything, specifically concerts, you know that it is now legal to scalp tickets in Minnesota and you pay nowhere near face value.

Minnesotans have noticed the ridiculousness of scalping and so has country music superstar Eric Church. On Friday, he issued a big ‘F U’ to scalpers. Church cancelled 902 scalped tickets to his September 16 show in Minneapolis and put them back on the market.

I have to say that I have never heard of this happening before. Typically, when tickets are on the market they are out of the control of the artist and his team. Apparently they still have some pull afterwards.

The posts on Church’s Facebook page and posts on Twin Cities radio stations announcing the coming of 902 more tickets was almost all positive. In fact, I only saw one negative comment which was nicely snipped by a fellow Facebooker calling the writer of a negative comment a scalper. Ah, Facebook wit.

The rerelease of these tickets will allow me to go to the show now with reasonable priced tickets at $57 a crack for lower bowl seating.

Eric Church has been a badass for a long time. It shows in his music being actual country music and he proved it in the way that he treated his fans in Minnesota. Bravo, Chief.

Now, if only a certain ex-Beatle that’s coming to Target Field in August would control the scalpers who are selling tickets to his show for over a grand before the tickets even go on sale to the general public, that would be great.

A Riot Before A Riot: The Media, Police and University to Blame in Dinkytown ‘Riots’

If you head over to Dinkytown, the best-known college village literally steps from the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, at bar close or any time in the later evening, you’ll see a lot of interesting stuff. Primarily, you’ll see a lot of college kids who have probably had a couple too many and are attempting to make their way home. That should have been the case on Saturday night.

At 6:30 Minneapolis time, the puck dropped on the NCAA National Championship hockey game in Philadelphia. Minnesota’s Golden Gophers played the role of Goliath, Union College played the role of David and, as usual, David won. Apparently, the Dinkytown dwellers were supposed to riot.

It was a likely scenario, right? They had just kind of, sort of had done just that when the Gophers beat arch rival North Dakota in the semi-finals. It was a riot full of, well, not a whole lot of rioting. Students were taking pictures with police officers, so obviously the enforcement wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with duties.

Flash-forward to Saturday night, throngs of cops and media showed up in Dinkytown; the former to keep the peace, the latter to report on the pending riot. The funny thing is that they caused the riot.

College students are the biggest group influenced by the theory of monkey see, monkey do. Students walk out of the bars and see police, mounted police, a State Patrol helicopter and a tank, seriously, and it hits them that they should be doing something bad. It’s what they are supposed to be doing, right?! That’s why everyone is there.

I assume there was probably a couple extra hundred people in Dinkytown because it was the National Championship game, but otherwise it would have probably been the typical Thursday-Sunday night on a college campus. Let’s not over-fascinate a common happening.

This brings me to the following example from KMSP, the FOX affiliate in Minneapolis – St. Paul, who had this beautiful piece of field reporting.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that drunken frat boys are the same to a lighted TV camera as a moth is to a flame. Did you seriously think you could go a legitimate live-shot in the middle of what you and your competitors blew out of the water and built up as a riot before the puck even dropped on Saturday night?

The University of Minnesota’s President Eric Kaler stating there would be a zero tolerance policy and announcing the extra police presence just added gas to the barely-lit fire. Let the kids be kids.

Do the police have to be there? Of course they do. Do they need to start attacking and pepper spraying? Absolutely not.

Does the media need to be there? Yes, it is a story. Is it right for the media to force feed a ‘riot’ days before it happens? No.

Drunken kids might have been a little rowdy, but all young people between the ages of 17-22 imitate what they see on their Twitter feeds, movies and TV shows. Say the kids were out of line, but don’t act like the adults in this scenario didn’t overreact.

Monkey see, monkey do.