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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  • David Gerard

    It’s the way business is done these days,” Mr Ulrich said. “And there’s the novelty of anyone wanting to listen to a new Metallica album.”

  • A long time ago Metallic and Guns n Rose morphed from being rock musicians to simply rich dudes.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting paid for your work, but when you’ve made millions upon millions and you whine and cry that you’re not getting another million or whatever, it all comes across as very, very shallow and immediately devalues a lot of your music.

    Now, I was never a huge fan of either of these bands, but I though they were these bad-ass heavy metal rock stars / cowboys, turns out they’re just pampered divas!

    Lars doesn’t get it, he just wants to appease his customers but doesn’t understand it’s the music that won them over and the lack of quality music that lost them.

    It’s sad really, and it just ties into my long standing belief that you can only attain so much power / money before it gets to your head and changes you. So if I ever make it big, I’m donating that money, because as Kelly Price so eloquently put it:

    “It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”

  • I had a similar conversation with my best friend this weekend about how people that have money just constantly want more and more of it, as if the amount they have isn’t enough. This is exactly what keeps happening in music, and was also want South Park said ages ago about why music piracy was “wrong”.

    Heavy Metal was supposed to carry with it some of the same founding principles as punk rock, but as the metal bands got bigger and bigger, they became part of the machine they supposedly hated.

  • It’s quite mind boggling, because if I had a million dollars I could live fairly well off just the interest! Honestly, I’m glad I grew up on the lower-middle class end of the spectrum (though I’m sure my mom would say otherwise!). My socioeconomic background has grounded me and when I see these millionaire musicians (and other millionaires) whine about ____ it reassures me that my life is fine just the way it is.

    Great point about the roots of heavy metal tying in with punk rock, though that genre has its fair share of bands that are part of the machine too. Still, these musicians need to realize that their fans really don’t want to hear them whine about only making x amount of millions of dollars, especially considering the blue-collar nature of the heavy metal fan. It’s a big reason Rage Against the Machine still has its diehard fans even though they haven’t released a new album in years.

    I wonder if there’s been any economic or psychological studies done as to why the richer you get the richer you apparently want to be…

  • Aske

    Jesus, you are stupid… To me it sounds like you’re jealous of guns n roses and metallica. It makes me wonder- are you a musician who failed big time?
    It sounds to me like you embrase piracy- wich is a modern word for stealing. so, Could you please send me your adress? ’cause you probably have som CD’s that could have my interest, so I just drop by some day and steal them from you.. You don’t mind, do you?


  • Aske – Yes, you figured me out. I am bitter about bands that made it big, and my playing tuba in the high school marching band never led to fame and fortune for me. Oh, whoa is me, at last my deep shame has been revealed.

    As for piracy, I do not “embrase” (sic) it. I have stated numerous times in my other blog entries about music that I actually condemn it, as I do the music industry for continuing to spread the falsehoods that piracy has led to their sales declines. The music industry is falling apart, there is no doubt about that, but they have no one to blame but themselves for it.

    As for my dislike of these two stories… 1) I don’t like hypocrites, as Lars has shown himself to be and 2) I think the FBI has FAR better things to be doing with their time than chasing down some blogger over leaking some tracks from an album that will probably never see the light of day.

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  • Davedays

    Still can't watch SouthPark episodes for free unless your forced to watch 4 commericials during it!

    SouthPark = Hypocrites

    • There’s a difference between South Park running ads, and Comedy Central running ads. The network has final say what happens with the episodes, and this has even led to one episode being pulled from their site.