June 1 2008

Metallica Backpeddles Their Way To Relevancy

metallicaIn 2000, Metallica founder Lars Ulrich was one of the biggest names and faces associated with fighting the file-sharing site Napster.  I can vividly remember Lars wheeling a cart load of documents (for obvious photographic effect) up to the doors of Napster, proving who had shared his band’s music through the music site.  He then went on endlessly in interviews about the evils of the Internet, and how people should be ashamed of themselves and on and on and on.

Now it’s 2008, and it seems Lars has woken up to the Internet.

The other day I get an instant message from one of my co-workers at Mashable, Mark Hopkins, alerted me to this story, and he had a feeling it was up my alley for one of my usual rants.  In short, Metallica is releasing their new album via a special website, Mission: Metallica, and it will be DRM-free.  It actually took me a few days of thinking to decide how I felt on this because it is such a turn around from their previous decisions, but I pretty firmly decided it meant they still don’t get it.

First off, by releasing the album as digital downloads at 320 kbps, and DRM-free, essentially the band has guaranteed that the piracy sites will have a field day with this.  They are releasing it at CD quality, without digital locks, how can they not expect this to end up all over the BitTorrent sites?  As soon as one or two people have purchased it, they will unleash it to the trackers, and it will spread like wildfire.

Why should people turn to the torrent sites?  Well, they are charging $12 for the digital version of the album in a day and age when you have bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails giving away similiar projects for free.  What does this say about Metallica that not only are they charging, but they are putting a price tag on it above the going rate of $9.99 for the majority of downloadable albums on the sites that do charge?  Metallica has had a strained relationship with their fans since the Napster actions, wouldn’t the goodwill they could have built by a free release have outweighed the profit?

This is also a band that has not released a studio album since 2003, and that was the poorly received St. Anger, which is pretty much an unlistenable mess in my opinion.  This is a band in need of good will, and to make amends with their fans, so they do it by showing themselves as hypocritical by seeming to entice piracy with no digital right management and a seemingly inflated download price?  This whole plan seems like a “fine, we’ll follow the trend, but we’re going to do it on our messed up terms” sort of maneuver.

If it wasn’t a band I used to care about so much, I was a big fan up through 1991’s Metallica, I probably wouldn’t care as much.  I would have shrugged off this story and moved on with my life.  This is a band I would like to see regain some of their former glory, and most of all I want them to actually release an album I like, but this just doesn’t seem to bode well for what is to come.

Nice try guys, when you catch up to 2008, let me know.

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