Eliot Van Buskirk has, as always, terrific music coverage for Wired. The story this time: how Metallica’s Radiohead/Nine Inch Nails-style Internet release, free of DRM, seems only to make people angry. It gives a glimpse into how the Internet release could evolve over time, outside the aura of joy in which the latter two bands are enveloped. I can make the story short, though:

  • In many circles, Metallica is no longer cool or never was cool.
  • Lawyer make people MAD. Angry. Smash. (Apparently in addition to going after 60,000 pages of fans on Napster, Metallica doesn’t even like fan-made buttons.)
  • Metallica is not Radiohead or Trent Reznor. (Stop the presses!)
  • Even if you’re not Radiohead or Trent Reznor, you probably want your fans on your side. Pitchforks and torches tend to be a bad sign.

Of course, some might see the doomsday scenario of Internet music releases, in which fans determine that all music should be free and you can’t make money on releases any more. Big bands give away their stuff for free, the independent artist dies, music isn’t made any more, etc., etc. But given glowing fans proclaiming that they’re “glad I could shell out 40 pounds for the discbox” of In Rainbows, that seems unlikely.

And that’s the fundamental nature of fans. They’re looking for ways to give you their money so you can give them something back. Lesson learned by Metallica: don’t piss them off.

Fans Rip Metallica a New One [Wired.com Listening Post; enjoy the Napster-era parody video]

Photo: massdistraction, via Flickr.

  • wow. ridiculous. like a slap 60,000 faces.

  • It's hard to believe that at one time, those guys worked with Michael Kamen and made one of THE best live rock albums of all time.

    Then they got retarded, fast … they traded in their "anti-establishment" stance for the "we are the establishment, taste my lightning fuckers" stance.

    They can never have their street cred back, ever. They might as well break up the band, and rebrand as something else.

  • Chris

    Lame. Irrelevant. Give it up guys.

  • electroyte

    I think it's sad that metallica gets a negative impact by supporting the idea of free music, and letting more people hear their music (that are not able to buy the CD).

    Even if I never liked their music, they are now more likeable to me!

  • electroyte

    I probably misunderstood the article 😀

  • Love the highlighted quote on the Wired story about the guy's wife who made shiny pink buttons. 🙂

  • Wilbo

    I wonder if their life coach came up with this brilliant plan to get their fans back.

  • Well, I'm not saying I agree with the spurned fan base of Metallica … never concerned me much one way or the other. But this does clearly demonstrate what happens when you lose fans' trust. I think free music for promotion will continue to be an idea with some traction; despite the opposition from some in the record industry, it's a very, very old concept.

  • apoclypse

    Metallica will never regain its fan base. The Napster debacle wasn't the only thing that pissed off fans. The music changed and not for the better. I respect NIN and Radiohead, not only did I buy both artists albums even after they put it for free on the net, but I went ahead and bought everything I could find on iTunes. Why? I respect them as artists. Musically their stuff is challenging and consistant. Metallica tried going back to the harder edge sound that made them but the fan base was lost and couldn't be regained. Besides Lars is a prick, imo.

  • People want access to free music, immediate downloads, and more and more they want new and innovative ways to interact with their favorite artists.

    But many of them WILL pay for music and/or support the artists directly, but prefer to do so if the musician actually gets to keep the money or most of it anyway, instead of it all going to big labels, greedy record execs, blablabla.

    Ultimately I think the industry will lean towards something like this: the artists decide how they want to distribute their music and for how much (e.g. listen for free, but buy the song or free low quality download, but pay for a higher quality download or free to listen if you don't mind ads etc).

    Then fans have the freedom to choose how to consume their music, what they buy and why, and how to support the musicians they love.

    I think the last thing any of us want to see is that only big bands who can afford to release music for free survive, and the indies die. That would suck. But, by providing innovative ways for consumers to support musicians directly (without the interference of middlemen) and by giving musicians the freedom to decide how they distribute their music, the music industry would be heading in the right direction.

  • Wallace Winfrey

    What's so ironic about Metallica is that, "back in the day", they used to be considered one of the most fan-centric metal bands around. I actually started listening to Metallica right around Ride The Lightning, and when we went to see them open up for Ozzy on their Master of Puppets tour (we left after Metallica's opener), Cliff Burton was riding a BMX bike around the parking lot and hanging out and smoking weed with the Metallica fans. Can anyone imagine them doing anything close to that these days? If you want to know who Metallica is these days, watch the Some Kind of Monster documentary towards the end when Lars Ulrich clinks champagne glasses with his wife after making millions off a painting auction.

    The other thing about Metallica is, you can't turn your back on metal fans and ever expect to regain them. Metal fans have long memories, and in no other musical subculture is the "we're more important than the fans" sentiment a greater blasphemy. Metallica also has to compete against a new school of metal bands that, musically-speaking, have better ideas and better chops except without the "compromised-metal-band-as-corporation" baggage that Metallica will always take with them.

    I agree with Plurgid. They ruined their brand. They should stop trying. Perhaps they're contractually obligated by Metallica, Inc. to continue.

    All that said, I still love everything up to "…and Justice for all."

  • gbsr


    why was metallica on napster in the first place?

  • mar

    Don't know much about the metallica stuff.

    If the general public doesn't buy music anymore, only some fanatics paying $100 for a disc in a wooden box a t-shirt and a sticker then the future of music doesn't look too bright.

  • hinge

    "And that’s the fundamental nature of fans. They’re looking for ways to give you their money so you can give them something back."

    from my personal experience, having done all the "right" things, dream on!

  • Metallica used to be a good whiskey band but now they're a bad mineral water band.

  • @mar: Well, we've been through this before. People are willing to pay for music. Hence the multi-billion dollar CD industry striving onward, even after the convenience of that format has long waned, and the rapidly-expanding online music market, which I think was slowed early on by an overuse of DRM. So a few bands may give away music as a promotional item. But the point is always to promote revenue elsewhere. I don't see the big deal.

    @hinge: Touche … but I should reword that. They're willing to exchange one thing to get another. Assume otherwise and you pretty much unravel all consumer business. What we are seeing in this industry is change. That doesn't mean that people are refusing to spend money on everything for all time … many music fans have *always* been notoriously poor, so that aspect of the problem isn't exactly new.

  • Seriously, "grim future"? Nobody makes much money off of CDs, nor did they ever, as far as I know.

  • Downpressor

    "Beloved Trent Renzor"? Where the heck does that come from? The guy pulls a page out of an old marketing playbook and now all of a sudden he's "beloved"? Seriously, before he hitched his wagon to the "give it away" train, how "beloved" (or even vaguely relevant) was he?

    Also I just cant take Wired seriously to comment on these things at all. Essentially they are vultures attracted to carnage and worse yet they have a horse in this race since they've always advocated the pseudo socialist "everything wants to be free" line of misreasoning.

    As for Metalica, think about it this way, do people on the net whine and cry because the Rolling Stones arent releasing free albums on the web? Do the Stones' lawyers actively try to suppress logo trademark violations? (hint: the answer is yes)

    FWIW I'm with hinge on this one. I run my own label,give away enough freebies, but I get more people telling me they enjoy the copies of my tunes they have but didnt buy. The compliments feel nice but wont buy me any new plugins or mixers.

  • In case you're wondering and your comments was deleted: all comments / points of view are welcome. Meaningless comments get deleted. If you want it here, find at least a *semi*-articulate way to put it, 'kay?

  • @Downpressor: a gimmick's a gimmick; I agree. But are people really railing against the Stones? Surely that's in fairly limited circles. I guess my whole point is, I wouldn't use Metallica as a yardstick — and maybe, at the opposite extreme, even Radiohead. They represent to sides of how buzz can become polarized, and yes, indeed, pretty much everybody else is somewhere in the middle. (The zone called reality?)

  • After all they have done in the past to stifle innovation Metallica deserve to be treated with suspicion.

    You may be interested in the album I just recently released. It is available free to download. Licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Licence. This licence lets you use this music for commercial products or make remixes or other derivative works, so long as you give credit to the original artists. Politics Apocalypse is political and subversive post-industrial rock with an interesting mix of classical instruments, guitars, electronic beats, and a small dash of aussie hip-hop. You can download the whole 11 track album at no cost at our website. We are also doing a name your own price CD (starting at cost price). I don’t mean to spam but I am trying to get the word out to those who may be interested. http://www.politicsapocalypse.com

  • Downpressor

    @Peter: Really tho, why make a point about the lawyer? Imagine you work for years to build a brand and have a valuable trademark as a result. Trademarks must be defended by law or you loose them. Its ugly but thats reality. If whomever holds the trademark for Metallica does not do seemingly nasty things like going after "free fan buttons" then they have no legal recourse against Bootleg T-Shirts LLC. Wired is just flame baiting with this whole thing.

    BTW last night I was in Tower Records in Shibuya, NiN's Ghosts was on the rack by the registers for 1,990 Yen. Got me thinking how much of a good scam Renzor is running since he'll probably be getting residuals off these recent freebies long after people have forgotten about the stunts themselves.

    @Cliffe: "I don't mean to spam" Really? Your post was 1% semi connected reply and 99% self aggrandizement. If it quacks like a duck…

    Anyway this gets me thinking, maybe giving away our work isnt enough. Maybe people have the g-d given right to demand that those of us who make the music they like hand deliver our products to them and give them foot massages while they listen. Perhaps they'll think thats still not enough so we should then act as secretaries to type out their laundry lists of complaints about us and then post them to online forums.

  • I know you people aint very happy with Metallica,and I agree they mjade a big mistake with the napster thing and all but it seems some of you say this band is not as good as they used to be……or that they are crap now….well I saw them 2 weeks ago playing in Madrid in front of 50.000 people and they are still the men in black kicking assssss, even though Master of Puppets is close to turning twenty (long life clif Burton)

    Sorry if you disagree…maybe you dont like metal up your….


  • Johnny Horizon

    Metallica wouldn't have gotten anywhere without the bootleg/tape-trading scene in the 80's. Back then, they got no radio play, no MTV, no mainstream press, etc. You learned of them when your friend made a copy of his cassette tape for you.

  • Jersey Jim

    I hope I can become as irrevelant and hated as Metallica one day. They've lost more fans than most of us will ever likely gain.

  • You forgot to mention that Trent Reznor published his last two albums, The Slip and Ghosts I-IV, under a Creative Commons license. I can't imagine Metallica doing this.

  • somosanto

    this "recorded music as promotion" idea is great for all those that want to perform live, but what of the musicians and fans that actually consider the cd to be the product itself?

    some music just doesnt translate well to stage, and some artists dont perform best in their studio

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