Metallica Tries To Embrace The Online Musical Experience — Gets Halfway There

from the it's-a-step dept

Among folks who follow the news about copyright issues and online music, the band Metallica is rather infamous. After all, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich was the first (and most vocal) musician to come out swinging about how evil Napster was. The band was the first to sue Napster (and some universities for failing to block Napster) back in 2000. It also spent many years complaining about iTunes — though the band eventually gave in two years ago.

However, this isn’t to say that the band hasn’t been willing to at least experiment with online music, often in somewhat creative ways. Way back in 2003, while other musicians were jumping on the iTunes train, Metallica did a surprising deal with DSL provider Speakeasy, offering Speakeasy customers who bought a Metallica CD access to other special content including “live recordings, demos, b-sides and other content.” In other words, they actually gave people a reason to buy the CD — but oddly targeted only at the small number of Speakeasy customers.

Given that, perhaps it isn’t that surprising that Metallica has now come out with a new website that tries to embrace online music. The new site, Mission Metallica, actually comes out of Ethan Kaplan’s group at Warner Brothers Records. Kaplan is the guy we were talking about last week who is hopefully leading Warner in the right direction on music.

As Kaplan notes, the important thing with the new site is that the music is part of the overall experience. The site (in some ways similar to their old deal with Speakeasy) offers a ton of additional content concerning the making of Metallica’s latest album and various other things, like contests to win tickets to shows. It also puts in place many of the other aspects of the business model we’ve been discussing, including a tiered offering a la Trent Reznor and Jill Sobule. That is, the band is offering a variety of options to let people pay for actual value beyond the music.

But… of course, it stops just short of actually making it all the way there. That’s because the band isn’t releasing any of the digital downloads for free. It still wants people to pay for the downloads — even though freeing up those downloads would likely attract more people to all those other options (the band, obviously, would disagree, but given Metallica’s reputation as being the slayers of Napster, they might be surprised at what a total shift would do for them). It’s encouraging that the band has adopted many of the important aspects of recognizing the importance of the experience surrounding music, but it’s disappointing that they haven’t made it all the way through to the logical conclusion of where that model leads.

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Comments on “Metallica Tries To Embrace The Online Musical Experience — Gets Halfway There”

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Bill says:

Back when they started

I recall back in the begining before they were corperation that they are now, they were known as the “fan’s” band, but since that whole napster fiasco I stopped buying their music and tickets or anthing to do with this band. I still like their music I just no longer give them my money.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re:

I agree fully(except they made 3 incredible albums in my opinion; before Cliff died). Metallica didn’t just sue Napster, they sued their fans and that genie can NEVER be put back in the bottle; the moment they did that was the moment they lost my interest in any of their music. I helped make them who they are by bringing them no less than 100 new fans thanks to me copying my album onto some cassette tapes when friends asked to hear more, and they lost those fans and many more when they started suing.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Who is Metallica anymore?

Ever since the anti-Napster affair, I think a lot of fans have shunned them, or downloaded their songs illegally just to spite them. I listen to the old stuff (good stuff) I already own but wouldn’t pay a penny for anything new since the Napster debacle. I wouldn’t even waste my time downloading it. I am glad I made that decision since the songs I heard on the radio from their last album sounded like a garage band. Losers! I was listening to Ride the Lightning yesterday thinking where did they go wrong. I wouldn’t even pay to see them in concert. They lost me years ago.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Who is Metallica anymore?

Exactly. I still have all their old albums on vinyl but I don’t listen to them and I find their attitude so distasteful that I, too, wouldn’t bother downloading them either. Hell, just yesterday I saw “Kill ‘Em All” as cherry vinyl and 10 years ago I would have paid the money without hesitation but today they’re in the same category as Celine Dion: NOT EVEN IF IT’S FREE!!!

How’s that feel Lars, you’ve now made your band so freakin’ irrelevant to me and many others that we refuse to even download it for free. Can’t even give it away to us.

Just so we can keep it in perspective:

Napster BAD

SomeGuy says:

The first band I really got in to thanks to Napster, ironically enough, was Metallica. They were definitely not the sort of band I would have expected to like, but I really connected with the music. Thanks to them, through Napster, my musical horizons were expanded significantly.

When they came out so violently against the one avenue through which I’d come to appreciate their music and discover others, it really soured the whole relationship for me. Now I can’t even listen to their best tracks without a pang of resentment. I think this is a nice step in the right direction, even if it kind of misses the point, but I’m afraid my regard for the band is still too damaged for me to give them another chance and I’m certainly not yet willing to give them my money again.


meh. I wish they would mix albums consistently and correctly. Its funny that the worst two had the best mix, the best two had a crap mix, the third best was missing bass altogether, and the last was some sort of recording abortion entirely.

They are heading in the right direction for a bunch of neurotic has beens though, so give them a little slack. I am interested to see what effect, if any, Rubin and new bassist Trujillo have on the band. Not sure why really, I haven’t liked anything since the Master of Puppets era.

deadzone (profile) says:


Much too little and way too late. It’s really sad to see them finally beginning to realize the power of the Internet and digital distribution as it gets you publicity-and lot’s of it-cheaply and quickly. It’s much too late for them though between the disgruntled fans and their lack of presence on the Internet, they are just has-beens.

I do love some of their old stuff though.

really old fart says:

too many choices

I remember when I first started using napster man it was great I found many new artists I enjoyed and even purchased their cds when I could. You see I live in a small desert town and here were my choices for buying music back then
1. drive 75 miles to the closest Wal-Mart to get an edited crap version
2. drive 100 miles to get to a good music store with a decent selection
3. download the music for free from napster if i liked it it went on a list the next time I had reason to drive that far I also made it a point to stop and purchase several of the albums on my list
Now I just pay my $1 a song but i still download it free to try it out the radio is such a piss poor way of determining good music
Ahhh the good ole days when pirates were people who stole stuff from ships

really old fart says:

too many choices

I remember when I first started using napster man it was great I found many new artists I enjoyed and even purchased their cds when I could. You see I live in a small desert town and here were my choices for buying music back then
1. drive 75 miles to the closest Wal-Mart to get an edited crap version
2. drive 100 miles to get to a good music store with a decent selection
3. download the music for free from napster if i liked it it went on a list the next time I had reason to drive that far I also made it a point to stop and purchase several of the albums on my list
Now I just pay my $1 a song but i still download it free to try it out the radio is such a piss poor way of determining good music
Ahhh the good ole days when pirates were people who stole stuff from ships

PaulT (profile) says:

Partway there at least...

I started getting into Metallica in around ’91, and was a huge fan until they started with the Napster stuff, after which I boycotted them. Well, almost as I bought St. Anger from a local library for a pound 🙂 Maybe it’s just because of the time I got into them, but I liked every album up until Load, St Anger had its moments though. I still have memories of seeing them in 1995 Donington Monster Of Rock, and that’s a great memory to have regardless…

Anyway, the site looks OK and it’s nice to see that they’ve clued into some aspects (digital downloads of the album will be 320Kbps MP3, for example – excellent).

Unfortunately, some other aspects are still not there. There’s regional restictions. There’s no real information about when to expect content or the final album or when i can expect things to be opened up to my region. Also, it would be nice to have some free digital content. I can understand their reasons for charging, but people have been so burned by paid-for content in the past that most will P2P it to preview before buying anyway…

Anyway, kudos to them. It’s a great sign that not only can a band embrace digital content in this way but that a band who were the face of anti-digital industry crap can do so. It will be nice when they realise that free is the way to go as well, but a DRM-free future is good enough for now!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Not entirely "against free"

That’s an interesting fact, thanks. Though it does highlight that it’s awareness of their product that’s a problem now…

I signed up an account on the new site, and one of the things you can download straight away is a concert from the Kill ‘Em All era. it’s downloading now, and I wasn’t asked for any payment so I assume it’s free (and hopefully DRM free).

sombra says:


I especially enjoyed the MTV music awards years back when the Napster thing was fresh. The owner of Napster wore a Metalica Tshirt on stage with Metalica band in the audiance and said “I borrowed this tshirt from a friend” You can see the anger in the Metallica Drummers face when the cameras swung in his direction for his reaction! Priceless!

Still Metallica Fan says:

Nonsense Napster thingy

I just can’t stand listening to people saying “ow, I stopped listening to, going to concerts and wearing ‘tallicas’ T-shirts since the Napster case”.

Come on, their last disc sucked, it’s a fact. But there’s no way I’ll spit on their music because this Napster stuff. Yeah, they were morons, money-oriented (who in the US [and many other places] isn’t?), but I still like their concerts, old (and some new) stuff, etc.

Get a life!

karma sucks says:

What a bunch of idiots!
I was a diehard Metallica fan until the Napster thing. Ironically, I got into them because someone passed me a bootleg tape of “Master of Puppets” back in the mid-80s. they owe their whole success to bootleg copies.
F*CK METALLICA! They’re getting what they asked for by persecuting their fans.

Devil's Advocate says:

Re: Re:

You don’t have your facts straight.

They never targeted bootlegs.

They targeted their albums being distributed online. They, in fact, continued to support bootleg efforts even during the Napster gaffe.


“Metallica’s Lars Ulrich to Deliver Requested Documents To Napster Office on
– 05/01/2000

In response to a copyright infringement and racketeering lawsuit filed On April 13, 2000 by Metallica, E/M Ventures and Creeping Death Music against Napster Inc, Napster refused to take steps to eliminate Metallica’s copyrighted works from the Napster directory. However, Napster has requested the names of users that are trading Metallica songs or infringing its copyrights, promising to delete those identified users from the Napster service.

To that end on Wednesday, May 3rd at 12NOON PST, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich along with Band’s attorney will deliver to the Napster office in San Mateo, CA. the requested documents.

The documentation includes over 60,000 pages of information on over 1.4 million copyright violations of 95 Metallica songs and recordings originally included on commercially released albums.

These violations were monitored from Friday, April 28th – Sunday, April 30th at 4AM EST and include 335,435 distinct users who on average offer 5 Metallica files for illegal transfer.

The documentation lists the specific description of each infringement of Metallica’s copyright (THE OFFENDING FILE) and the specific user involved in each violation (THE USER). Information was obtained by NetPD, an outside source that has developed the technology to track and monitor usage.

Metallica makes no claims of copyright infringement with respect to recordings of Metallica songs made by Metallica fans at Metallica live concerts.

The names of these users are not being added to the lawsuit but are being given to Napster at their own request, as Napster claims this is the only way they will voluntarily monitor and stop copyright infringements.

WHO: Metallica’s Lars Ulrich

WHEN: Wednesday, May 3, 2000 12NOON PST

WHERE: Napster Inc. 4 West 4th Avenue, San Mateo, CA.

All Coverage is Welcome and Questions Will be Taken.

For fans interested in speaking directly with Metallica, they are taking their message of copyright protection directly to fans in a live open forum later that evening at 5PM PST. Fans can post questions to Lars, James and Jason beginning 30 minutes prior to the chat by visiting or

Metallica Files Suit Against Napster, The University of Southern California, Yale University, and Indiana University
– 04/13/2000

Suit alleges that Defendants have violated the law by committing continuing copyright infringements, unlawful use of digital audio interface device, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

New York, NY — Internationally renowned recording artists Metallica, E/M Ventures and Creeping Death Music have today filed suit in U.S District Court Central District of California against Napster, Inc., The University of Southern California, Yale University, and Indiana University.

Metallica, E/M Ventures and Creeping Death Music are the copyright owners of sound recordings and musical compositions created by Metallica and possess the exclusive right to commercially distribute these songs and sound recordings and derive income therefrom.

The suit alleges that Napster and the other defendants – by encouraging and enabling visitors to its website to unlawfully exchange with others copyrighted songs and sound recordings without the knowledge or permission of Metallica – have violated the law by committing continuing copyright infringements, unlawful use of digital audio interface device, and violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Says Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, ” With each project, we go through a grueling creative process to achieve music that we feel is representative of Metallica at that very moment in our lives. We take our craft -whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork- very seriously, as do most artists. It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is. From a business standpoint, this is about piracy- a/k/a taking something that doesn’t belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such information -whether it’s music, videos, photos, or whatever- is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods.”

Further the suit states that, “Napster has devised and distributed software whose sole purpose is to permit Napster to profit by abetting and encouraging the pirating of the creative efforts of the world’s most admired and successful musical artists. Facilitating that effort are the hypocritical universities and colleges who could easily block this insidious and on going thievery scheme. The last link in the chain are the end users of the stolen musical works, students of these universities and others who exhibit the moral fiber of common looters loading up shopping carts because “everybody else is doing it.”)


While many points of theirs I don’t agree with, it’s hard to ignore the fact that they were never at all in their whole history, including the Napster Gaffe, against bootlegging (that is unauthorized recording of live events and distributing those recordings).

Rose M. Welch says:

It's horrible because...

…they have spoken about music-sharing in interviews before, saying that they would stay at one another’s homes all night and tape thier records so they could all have copies… I always thought it was so incredibly hypocritical that the people grew up copying music are now mad that people are copying thier music.

Chris Mikaitis says:

For all that is still good

No reason to hate the members of Metallica… they are musicians, not businessmen. Their initial outcry was almost certainly due to a talk from their marketers, who should be held responsible. I love(d) their music back in the day… still do, but don’t really pay attention to anything new these days. All I’m saying is that if they are in the wrong fight, it’s because they have never been responsible for spreading their music after they became big. Though they are rich, they are making others much richer and following their advice.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: For all that is still good

You have a point but the problem is that up until they started attacking Napster, Metallica were the poster boys for fans-turned-pros, for people who got to where they were by building a ground-roots fanbase. The last album the released before the Napster fiasco was Garage Inc., a double CD ode to the songs that inspired them and helped them become the musicians they are today, a place they got to only after years of playing said cover versions and encouraging tape swapping among fans.

Whatever the market men were telling them, they should have realised how wrong and hypocritical it was of them to attack Napster. After over 15 years in the business, they should have been perfectly placed to not only recognise marketeering bull when they heard it, but been able to say “no” when they did. That they chose to go along with it instead of their fans is unforgivable to many people.

Qaz says:

When Metallica heard their unfinished song on radio and realized that it can be found from Napster, things just got out of hand. All they wanted to do was to be able to control how their master recordings were distributed.

Here’s something from an email The Metallica Club members have received relating to Mission Metallica…

“Below is the coupon code that will give you the full platinum experience for free . . . everything except the actual album (the label really wasn’t down for that one if you know what we mean!).”

Sun King says:

Stand Your Ground !!!

Principles people, principles! STAND YOUR GROUND! Turning on your fans is backstabbing them. That is a betrayal under any name. If you were outraged back then, Stand Your Ground. Don’t be spineless and crumble cos you can’t be bothered anymore. You would be a fool to do so. As Bush said, fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice………… fool m…… you c……. I…………………………………………. you’ll never fool me again!

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey Tards...

Get over yourselves. Jesus you’d think the same person was changing a few words and just clicking submit over and over.

This is a group that promoted bootlegs and sharing their music. They just didn’t think you should be downloading produced albums for free. I get so freakin’ tired of hearing the whining, Lars was a little bitch but they’re moving on… now if you could move on. I really couldn’t care if you like them or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

In the Beginning...

I thought that (originally) Metallica went after Napster because people started distributing live concert bootlegs. Then, in typical fashion for the band, when they started attacking it they exaggerated everything to make their point (eg “Napster is Evil, mrearh!”) and so on.

But wait, people love to hate so lets just ignore the details and focus on them attacking Napster. Like they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions after all so nevermind that they had a valid reason for going after them at first.

Anonymous Coward says:

Screw Metallica. They also have a Guitar Hero: Metallica game coming out. They were so against Napster and digital distribution of their music (iTunes) but are now ready to cash in on digital downloads. I hope the GH hero game reflects them in real life, half playing the plastic guitar, half being Lars or James and alternating between bitching about the other guy and whining about themselves.

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