When Garth Brooks' national tour came to Wright State University in December of 1992, the Dayton Daily News reported it the fastest sell-out concert in the Nutter Center’s history.
With 12,376 tickets sold in just 36 minutes, Brooks still holds that record to this day.
The country superstar returned to the music industry in November after a 13-year retirement. Embarking on a national tour and releasing his tenth studio album, Brooks is looking to pick up where he left off - and if Wright State’s Nutter Center is successful, that means another stop in Dayton.
Earlier last month, the center’s marketing team launched a social media campaign looking to get the attention of Brooks. They hope to convince him to return for their 25th anniversary.
Utilizing it’s Facebook, Twitter, and newly created Instagram account to popularize #NutterCenter4Garth, the center is also asking local fans to help by including the hashtag in messages to Brooks’ social media accounts.
Misty Cox leads the marketing efforts at the Nutter Center. She said the arena frequently host’s big name musicians, but Brooks has not returned due to limited seating.
“I think that’s our downfall right now, that he is still playing bigger markets. There’s arenas that have more seats… but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he could still come back.”
Cox’s confidence that Brooks will hear the center’s message and return is based on the close relationship she says he has with fans.
Brooks has an established reputation for being both genuine and regularly seen meeting and talking with admirers. In an interview with the Star Tribune last year, the singer recalled an unannounced 23-hour long session of fan interaction at a Kentucky country music convention in the 1990s.
Cox is aware of the difficulty in reaching the music star, but says if Brooks returns, Miami Valley devotees are ready.
(PULLQUOTE:) “We know that the interest is there. We know that we have the fans. What we’re trying to do is create a dialogue and say, “Hey there are fans in Dayton who want a show,” Cox said.
While his tours continue to break records and garner excitement, the initial sales figures of Brooks’ newest album, released before Thanksgiving, failed to meet half the expected number. Sales on Brooks’ new music service GhostTunes aren’t accounted for, but Billboard reports the album sold 130,000 copies out of an anticipated 300,000 to 400,000.
The album, Man Against Machine, explores the negative repercussions of society’s growing relationship with technology and an overall disconnectedness Brooks’ says he has witnessed since leaving the national spotlight over a decade ago. He explained his thoughts in a statement before the album’s release.
"For 14 years, I have watched heart and soul, dreams and individualism, fighting for their very existence in a world of increasing technology. This album is a reminder to all those who dream, work, and fight for what they believe; do not give up your vision,” Brooks said.
The message of the album is unexpected given that the record’s success largely depends on the technology it speaks against.
But Brooks isn’t unaware of how music is sold in the digital age.
GhostTunes is a digital music service created by Brooks after he refused to release his newest work on Apple’s iTunes. Reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s recent remarks on artist compensation by the music service, Brooks argues GhostTunes is an alternative to mainstream music options and better compensates artists. At GhostTunes revenues are split 80/20, whereas the industry standard is 70/30.
Brooks’ streaming alternative is interesting but hardly revolutionary, and it reveals yet another truth about the changed musical landscape the country star has reemerged in. Not only has the way music is sold changed, but also the way it is shared.
Andrew Leahey, writing for Rolling Stone in November, reported the opening of Brooks’ Facebook and Twitter accounts the day of his album’s release. Up to that point, Brooks is described in the article as being “somewhat technophobic” when it came to social media.
In his first few hours in the online social world, Brooks’ had shared a few thoughts, photos, and even a video.
He admits in his first video shared on Facebook that he was hesitant to create online profiles, but changed his mind after a friend offered advice.
“I really wasn’t sure about this at the start, but then a friend of mine said something that just made all kinds of sense. She said, ‘Think of it more as a conversation.’ I like that. But I'm already finding out on my own that it's wiping out the walls between you and me, and I really like that,” Brooks said.
The Nutter Center couldn’t have better timing.
As Brooks looks to reshape his brand for an audience in the digitally connected world, the center could offer him an opportunity to appear relevant in the social media landscape.
Could the arena soon make history as the home of Brooks’ first concert inspired through social media outreach?
It all depends on whether Dayton fans contribute to the “conversation” that has started.
This story appears in the Dayton City Paper, here. Photos provided by Wright State University.