September 6 2008

Metallica Confuses Their Fans Again, While Guns N’ Roses Arrest Them

It would seem that washed up bands with little to no relevancy in today’s music market have totally lost their minds.

First up is news that is seems Lars Ulrich, founder of the heavy metal band Metallica, has completely lost his mind. As I discussed in June of this year in a post entitled “Metallica Backpeddles Their Way To Relevancy“,it seems Lars has completely changed his stance on music piracy.  While people are entitled to change their opinions on a subject, it just comes off a bit oddly when you were the driving force behind bringing down Napster, the original peer-to-peer music sharing service.

The first sign he had possibly changed his mind was the face the band would be selling their newest album, Death Magnetic, as MP3s with no copy protection, making piracy an almost certainty.  Now Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins of Mashable points out a summary from of an interview Lars gave to KITS 105.3 FM in regards to the album leaking on BitTorrent sites 10 days early:

“Listen, we’re ten days from release. I mean, from here, we’re golden. If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. Happy days. Trust me. Ten days out and it hasn’t quote-unquote fallen off the truck yet? Everybody’s happy. It’s 2008 and it’s part of how it is these days, so it’s fine. We’re happy.”

Say what?  He’s “fine” with it?  He’s “happy”?  It appears the copy that “leaked” was sold early by a record store in France, and it just seems uncharacteristic that one of the harshest critics of online piracy would do such an abrupt about face.  Does he finally “get it”?  Does he finally know how to work with the Internet?  Could this have anything to do with the poor reception of their last album, 2003’s St. Anger?  Could it have anything to do with the fact they have alienated many fans with their total lack of interest in legally selling their catalog digitally until recently?  This all seems like a well staged PR stunt to me to regain some of their old fans.

Now, on the flip side of the coin, you have news that Guns N’ Roses, which is really just frontman Axl Rose at this point, called in the Federal Beauru of Investigation (FBI) to arrest a blogger who posted some tracks from their long delayed album, Chinese Democracy, according to Techdirt.

Somehow the blogger got a copy of the mythological album and posted it on his site.  While this was a clear violation of copyright, you have to wonder why the FBI would go after such a small infraction with all the other rampant piracy that happens on a much larger scale, drugs, terrorism and so on, but no, let’s go after the guy who posted just one album.  One would certainly think they might have had better things to do with their time.

While what this blogger did was a criminal act, was it worth building ill will in the fan community when your band is already skating on such thin ice?  Bob Lefsetz at summed up this thought process really well:

Fans.  They’re the hardest thing to acquire.  You can buy publicity, you can pay off distributors.  There’s mutual self-interest.  You want to sell and they want to profit.  Newspapers don’t do stories on acts no one cares about, and television is only interested in stars.  But fans are not doing business.  There’s no financial payoff for being a fan.  It’s an end-user application.  You don’t build up your fandom and sell it.  You own it.  At least until it fades away when the act does something heinous, like stand up to Napster.

That’s haunting Metallica nearly a decade out.  Metallica was right, but their fans thought they were wrong.  And you always want to come out on the side of your fans.  Metallica has learned its lesson.  But the record labels have not.

Nice how he interlaced both the bands I’m talking about, and I think adds fuel to my fire that Metallica is pulling a marketing stunt more than anything.  You would think maybe Axl would have learned from Lars obvious mistake with the fans, but apparently not.  Lars is not full on trying to bring his fans back in the fold, and Axl is sending federal officers after a guy for posting an album early.  That makes sense, good PR call there Axl.  Perhaps if you would just release the blasted album, no one would have cared.

I find it interesting that both bands involved in both of these stories had their biggest moments in the 1980s, and now here we are in 2008 with them having no clue how to handle the Internet, while other bands are not only embracing it, but turning it into a whole new distribution ssytem.  Do these bands not read newspapers?  Do they not have anyone in their management system who may be a bit more Internet savy and can warn them how fans can turn on a dime against you when you mess with their perceived Internet freedoms?

File sharing, by the letter of the law, is illegal, but as Mr. Lefsetz said, it is sometimes better to turn a bling eye to it for the potential backlash for messing with it, and there is the added bonus of it helping to build hype in advance of an album release.

Seriously, someone get these two bands an Internet consultant would ya?

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