Metallica never fully recovered from the Napster debacle and in the end what their actions did was bring about the “Anakin Skywalker Effect”. In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker tried to stop Padme from dying and in the process ending up being responsible for her death, the death of many other Jedis, a fall to the dark side and the loss of human limbs.
In Metallica’s case by killing off one outlet (Napster) many more came to replace it, which brought in an era of unchecked piracy, until streaming services started to rein it all in. Seen the stats coming out of the UK recently. When people are given a legitimate and well-priced legal alternative they will always take it up. More people are streaming now in the UK than downloading mp3’s.
And the thing about Metallica is that Lars Ulrich thinks that what U2 did with Apple was a good thing. Is he serious? U2 will never recover from the backlash of their Apple giveaway. Like U2, Lars is more or less showing that he is the poster boy for aging out of touch rock stars.
Watch the documentary called “Global Metal” from Banger Films. There is a section there that focuses on the spread of metal music globally. Based on interviews with musicians and fans of the genre a link is made to piracy and peer-to-peer downloading.
So in a different scene, the interviewer Sam Dunn explains to Lars what he has heard from metal fans around the world that piracy gave them access to music they could never get their hands on. Sam then asks Lars how he feels about it. Lars thinks about his answer for a second and then replies that it is a good thing that fans are getting access to the music. And isn’t it funny how Lar’s said “WE” had some radical views at the point in time in relation to Napster, when the truth is it was Lars (along with some bad advice from management) that had the radical views.
Remember recently that Metallica played some sold out shows in China. I wonder how that came to be especially when Metallica music is not really purchased in the country.
The thing is this; if Metallica gets back to writing some quality and excellent tunes, they will be laughing all the way to retirement. Because back in the day, good used to be good enough. Today good equals awful. We all want what is excellent. Death Magnetic came out in 2008. It was a good comeback album. Now they need a great album to follow-up “Death Magnetic” and they are already late with that release. “Lords Of Summer” as a song is terrible however there are some quality riffs there that need to be developed into great songs.
Because in the end, a great media campaign can bring attention for a little bit however it cannot sustain if the music is terrible. U2 still believe that smoke and mirrors still works. Their team must believe that promotion is everything. Tim Cook believed it, however do you reckon he will work with U2 again in this fashion. Make the mistake once and learn from it. But Lars reckons that what U2 did was an amazing thing. Maybe for their bank accounts it was, but what about their audience.
The very essence of the internet is that only true excellence rises to the top. And that which rises and lasts usually has an innovative twist to it. Volbeat merged rockabilly, country and metal into a commercial pop song. Five Finger Death Punch merged the hard rock movement of the Eighties with Killswitch Engage. Coheed and Cambria introduced a whole new style of storytelling making each album a mass media event that involved novels, comics and music. When Metallica broke out they merged the NWOBHM scene with fast tempos and then with progressive time changes. When Rage Against The Machine broke out they merged rap with classic rock pentatonic riffs aided by Morello’s grasp of effects.
Metallica’s past history will gain them attention, but it won’t make them sustain anymore because it’s all about the product not the revenue. Metallica stayed out on the road for far too long for the sake of revenue. And our time is limited. That is the only thing we cannot buy or download. So everyone is fighting for attention and because there is constantly something new coming out, very little sustains. Can Metallica buck that trend? If they deliver excellence then the answer is yes, however based on Lars views on U2’s corporate deal the pendulum swings to NO. I will have a drink tonight hoping that James Hetfield will veto any stupid marketing plans that Lars has.