Just one day after the announcement of a new version of Garth Brooks’ hit Friends in Low Places, the song release was cancelled indefinitely.
The updated classic, recorded with special guests George Strait, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, and Keith Urban, was to be part of the No Fences silver-anniversary reissue that was set to be released in November, but a disagreement with music publishers have thrown a wrench in Brooks’ plans.
According to Billboard, the No Fences reissue would be guaranteed sales of at least 1 million, but was contingent on publishers agreeing to a discounted royalty rate.
“The original plan was for a non-traditional retailer to buy at least 1 million units of the remixed and remastered No Fences. Brooks wouldn’t identify the partner, but likens the deal to his McDonald’s pact in 1994 when he released The Garth Brooks Collection exclusively through the fast food chain for a limited time with a portion of each $5.99 CD sold going to the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities.”
The arrangement was contingent upon publishers agreeing to a discounted royalty rate in return for the guaranteed 1 million buy (with potential for more units). While the majority of the publishers on the album agreed to the discounted rate requested, some — including Sony/ATV Music and Universal Music Publishing Group — would only agree to a lesser discount. Because of favored nation clauses, the deal would have then had to be done with all publishers at the higher royalty rate, which Brooks says priced it beyond the non-traditional retailer’s budget.”
Brooks reached out to the publishers that were holding up the album release to find out exactly why they weren’t agreeing to the discounted royalty rate. “They said to protect the songwriters,” he says. “I respect that. That’s been my whole thing since day one; you have to protect the songwriters.”
Garth Brooks’ buddy and co-writer for two of the songs on the original No Fences album said that he has no problem with discounting royalty rates on older material.
“Garth Brooks has done more to generate income from these songs than anybody else. On the first several uses, we got paid full rate and then he started coming up with different packages — this may be the sixth or seventh time he’s found a way to re-energize this 25-year-old material,” he says. “In a day when 50,000 sales really impresses somebody, we’re being guaranteed over a million sales on this. As a songwriter who has watched his income diminish, to give a half rate to someone who’s going to guarantee me a million or a million and a half copies, doesn’t seem like I’m giving up much.”
Brooks is taking full responsibility for the failed negotiations. “This is 100% my fault. I’ve done this deal for 20 years,” he says. “I know how this deal works. What caught me off guard — I just never guessed — is that the rate would go up.”
While we wait and hope that we’ll eventually get to hear the updated version of Friends in Low Places, check out Garth performing his hit with Justin Timberlake at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.