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.