Garth Brooks finally joins the digital age, new album and tour plans

Garth Brooks” five comeback shows in Dublin slated for later this month may still be in jeopardy, but the rest of his comeback is now taking shape.

Brooks, the top-selling solo artist in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America, held an occasionally emotional press conference today in Nashville that addressed many key points for his return, following his 13-year retirement, including his music finally being available digitally, a new label deal with Sony Music, and his world tour. He also addressed the status of the July 25-29 Ireland shows, which were cancelled on Tuesday because of permit issues, but talks are now ongoing to revive the shows.

Here”s what you need to know:

*His music will finally be available digitally. He has been the lone holdout among superstars at iTunes and will continue to be. Instead, his music will be available through his website, garthbrooks.com, within the next two-to-three weeks. Though he didn”t address this in the press conference, Brooks” reluctance to put his music on iTunes stemmed from the fact that he wanted his music sold as full albums, not as individual song downloads. We've asked his publicist about the album only and she said details to come, which indicates there may be some wiggle room there.  Brooks has long offered very low pricing on his packages and he hinted at an introductory offer for the downloads that will be so low, “people will think we”re giving it away.”  That”s a smart move. He rewards the fans who have been waiting a very long time to get their hands on his unavailable catalog and, by selling it in album-only form, he increases his album numbers. UPDATE: Here's how the downloads will work: For the new material, fans can buy the single, but they are pre-ordering the full album when they do so. He has to have the singles available for individual sale in order for him to chart on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, so this is his way around it. I'm not sure how it will work for singles that come out after the album has come out.

*There will be a world tour and he will announce the kick-off city on July 14.   (When he said the date for the announcement, he said Sept. 14, so that may have been a bit of a slip, as the tour is rumored to start this fall). Though Brooks would not confirm ticket prices or dates, Billboard reported that he will charge no more $80 per ticket, and  that a $60 ticket is more likely. Brooks have never believed in scaling the house, so all tickets will be the same price. Other outlets are reporting that he will do multiple dates in cities to meet demand, which isn”t so much of a leak as just common sense given the likely pent-up demand.

*Expect new music within the next two months. Brooks owns his music, including his back catalog, and he has made a licensing deal for his label, Pearl, to go through Sony Music”s RCA Nashville imprint (putting him on the same label as Elvis Presley).  He hinted that a single will come out within two months and that the album, a double album, will come around around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. He”s writing for the album, but added that the material he”s receiving from outside songwriters is better than his stuff so he”s been cutting outside material more than his own songs. The new album will be available through all physical retailers and his website, not just through Walmart, as has been the case for his last several projects since leaving Capitol.

*He admitted there was a “black cloud” over the day”s proceedings as the five Dublin shows  are still up in the air. They were initially cancelled on Tuesday, but he sent a letter to the promoter yesterday that has now opened back up talks, all the way up to the level of Ireland”s prime minister, who is now trying to save the concerts. Brooks said he will drop everything if the prime minister wants to talk with him and fly over to Dublin. “I will drop on my knees and beg for those 400,000 people to be able to come and have fun and sing.” At issue is that the Dublin City Council only approved licenses for three of the five shows, citing regulations that only permit three concerts at the 80,000-seat Croke Park per year. Brooks refuses to play unless he can perform all five shows. He got quite emotional discussing Ireland during the press conference and his feelings that he couldn”t let down the 160,000 who wouldn”t get to see him play if he caved and did only the the three shows. “They said to me, ‘With a simple yes, you cane make 240,000 people happy. And my statement back was ‘with a simple yes, you can make 400,000 people happy”.” And if there was any question as to whether young fans were eager to hear him, he said that a staggering 75% of the tickets sold to the Ireland shows were to people 25 and under.