In 2000, Lars Ulrich and Metallica famously sued Napster, and published a 60,000 page printout of names of fans who had traded their music in MP3 format online. This established Metallica, and Lars particularly, as the king of backwards-thinking douchebags in the music industry. Of course they won by technicality- unfortunately, music fans generally don’t know who the fuck Doug Morris is- but Lars ran a very public, very bold campaign, and he was elected king douchebag by overwhelming majority.
In April, I caught wind of a rather interesting blurb in Wired. Ulrich said that Metallica could be planning a digital release “along the lines of what Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have done.” He said, “We’re looking at how we can embrace everything.”
It sounded like Metallica was ready to repent its sins against its ever-dwindling group of fans, and finally get with the program. It took eight fucking years, and a couple of bands more connected to reality to make the first move, but it appeared that Lars was coming around to the idea that free distribution of music could be the future of the industry.
But the big fucking difference between Metallica and Nine Inch Nails is that Metallica is still on a major label. A major label still enslaved to antiquated business models. And so, now that the band’s attempt to catch up has been officially announced, its predictably too little, too late. And it stinks to high heaven of the old business.
Mission: Metallica, a glorified street team, will provide fans with the opportunity to download the new album in DRM-free MP3… For twelve bucks. Or twenty, if you want a CD too. This of course, is more than the standard album price on iTunes and Amazon, and much more than Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails’ $0 price tags. Platinum membership to Mission: Metallica can be yours for anywhere from $25 to $125, and includes live show downloads, photos, videos, ringtones, a $10 discount on band merchandise, and entry to a meet-and-greet contest. Standard street team shit.
The nicest thing I can say about this is that it’s just a stupid idea. And it shows exactly what made Lars king douchebag: It wasn’t necessarily what he did, it was the fact that he wouldn’t stop shooting his big mouth off about it, despite not knowing what the fuck he was talking about. Lars, don’t say you’re down with Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails while you’re still on a major label that would never let you do their dance. Don’t let your handlers hype up your big, cutting-edge new “street team” idea with tired marketing fanfare; the more you make a big deal out of it, the more the fans are going to point out the fact that it’s been done a million times before. The best thing you can do right now is deliver. Lay low, keep quiet, and just do your thing well. All that street team exclusive shit is great, but it’s not worth a fucking press conference. And the last person we want to hear from is Lars Ulrich. Especially while Warner still has their hand up Metallica’s ass.
I’m giving Metallica one last shot to get it right. In April, Ulrich denied that Metallica would sign a fatally corporatized 360-degree deal with Live Nation after their contract with Warner is up, as many mainstream artists like Jay-Z have been doing. Once again, he dropped the big names, saying “We’ve been observing Radiohead and Trent Reznor and in twenty-seven years or however long it takes for the next record, we’ll be looking forward to everything in terms of possibilities with the Internet.”
Hopefully, in twenty-seven years, Metallica will get it right.