Metallica On Spotify: What Does It Mean?

On Thursday December 6th, Ulrich and Parker took to a stage together in New York alongside Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.

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Ten years ago, the only time that you saw Metallica's Lars Ulrich and Napster co-founder Sean Parker in the same room was in court. Metallica's suit against Napster back in 2000, which accused the company of illegally distributing the band's music, sent ripples across the music industry. Many still regard it as the band's lowest point; a telling sign that Metallica, a band who had cemented their reputation in the 1980s by trading tapes with their fans, were painfully out of touch with modern music culture. It's an image that the band have spent the better part of ten years attempting to repair.

That reparation reached a new level on Thursday December 6th, when Ulrich and Parker took to a stage together in New York alongside Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. They were there to talk about the new features that the music streaming service will be rolling out in the next year. Parker's presence at the Spotify event is unsurprising (not only is he one of the key figures in the digital music revolution, he's also an investor in Ek''s company).

Ulrich however, is the last person many expected to see. And if his presence wasn't surprising enough, the announcement that Metallica's entire back catalogue was being made available through Spotify, with which his appearance coincided, was enough to pull the rug out from under anybody's feet. If you visited Metallica's official website yesterday morning, you would have been greeted with the following message:

"We're beyond excited to announce that music from every single Metallica album is now streaming on Spotify! In our never ending quest for total control of the way our music is presented, we always make it a point to be sure that we are offering you the very best service by partnering with ground-breaking technology companies. So with that said, we are extremely proud to be a part of Spotify, who not only has a proven track record, but is by far the best streaming service."

"We're always looking for more ways to get our music out to you, whether it's streaming live videos through our tour page on this site or offering downloads of live shows through LiveMetallica.com. Connecting with Spotify was the next logical step and we can't wait to see what the future brings!"

The appearance of the Metallica back catalogue on Spotify is the latest move in the band's restructuring of their business since splitting from long time label Warner Music last year. Back in September, Metallica announced that their upcoming DVD "Quebec Magnetic" would be the first product that they would release independently. A few weeks ago, they confirmed the formation of their own record label Blackened Records, which will be the distributor of all Metallica product from now on. The band also noted that they had secured exclusive rights to their back catalogue of albums and long from videos, as a result of the joint venture that they signed with Warner back in 1994.

The significance here is that Metallica is the first of the collective of bands once known as the iTunes holdouts to sign up to the streaming service. While AC/DC's iTunes boycott might have come to an end last week, they, along with other holders of multi-million dollar music catalogues such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have been reticent to move into streaming, seemingly questioning the medium's viability and, perhaps more importantly, the profit margins that it yields. By being the first of those groups to sign up to Spotify, Metallica are (to quote the band's own "Nothing Else Matters") opening themselves in ways that, a few years ago, would have seemed quite unthinkable. Whether or not it will pay off remains to be seen.

86 comments sorted by best / new / date

    PhilippeM
    I missed the whole Napster thing but this is basically what happened right? 1. People were downloading music for free (stealing) 2. Metallica accused people of stealing 3. People got mad at Metallica...for accusing them of doing something they were doing?
    Eclectic Lizard
    Finally, someone makes sense! Metallica were getting flak for appearing as these money obsessed rock gods but what they were doing would have benefited all the up and coming bands!
    ysnake
    The main problem why there was an outrage of fans is that Lars directly accused them of not being real fans and actually named a few, since they had the IP addresses of the people who were using p2p. Not that I support piracy, but naming people makes it kinda personal.
    LightxGrenade
    The thing is that the media painted Metallica as greedy musicians who were only concerned with making money. It was an unfair portrayal but a lot of people (including me) fell into the hype of it. Lost in all that was that Metallica had a point, while some musicians don't mind ppl pirating their music because they want to get exposure, it didn't offer too much for established musicians who's funding for recording and touring was based on album sales. Plenty of bands now-a-days say it all the time that they aren't against pirating but if you want to have a chance to see them in a local venue, album sales are needed (Periphery and Intervals are two bands that have stated this).
    qrEE
    When one album ALONE (Black Album) makes you more than enough money to retire, I don't think you need to be pissed about people getting your music for free. Small bands should be pissed. Big bands come across as greedy and hypocritical (Metallica stole music too. They probably did lots of other illegal things too. But it's ok, right? Because they're rockstars!)
    Zoltan1251
    exactly.... i have no problem with that now..... but back then people were pissed because one of the richest bands on planet is so greedy that they are going to sue poor little guy..... but everyone have to admit Lars was too aggresive in the case..... he realized it later on it wasn best move
    BjarnedeGraaf
    the fun thing is, that metallica totally ****ed napster over... and the dude who was CEO there, created spotify... and now all of the sudden, metallica is on board xD
    KingV911
    Yes, they're on board because with Spotify THEY are choosing have their music available through that service and getting reimbursed for it whereas with Napster they didn't choose to have their music available there and they received zero compensation.
    Bruntti
    Sean Parker did not create Spotify, if that's what you're implying.
    Oliverandm
    no but he invested millions in it, and is sitting on the board, so Metallica has been doing business with him at some point during this process
    darkdevout
    Sean Parker and Lars have actually become friends, have you seen the spotify press conference? the special guests were Sean and Lars and they were talking about the whole fiasco.
    Kavabangac
    I don't get it, too!
    GhostPlayground
    The reason people got angry at Metallica was because when they were teenagers they were doing the same thing with tapes, radios, and live shows. They were also distributing their music for free (before they got signed to a label) as well as bootlegging other bands. Everyone was doing it in the 80's, and it's how quite a few bands got noticed (Daniel Johnston, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Mayhem, Pavement, the list goes on). the reason people were angry at Metallica is that, even though they were probably the most famous bands to come out of this scene and a supposed symbol of how successful you could become by distributing your music for free to develop a fan base, was suddenly against the scene it came from. It was like, a small-town kid makes it in the big city and forgets the small-town that gave him the ticket to go into the city in the first place.
    Jhachey22
    But you can't really say that tape trading is on par with filesharing. Tapes were a physical thing, there was a limit to what you could have. If you wanted a large collection of music, either you had to bust your ass for it, either by working, recording off of the radio, bootlegs, etc. If someone wants that nowadays, it takes all of 5 minutes on isohunt.
    Drm316
    Well, though I do see your point and don't mean to nay say it - If I wanted to get technical you do have a limited amount of "bytes" in your hard drive. And just because it takes less time for someone to do it nowadays it doesn't mean it's "wrong "-er than the mentioned methods.
    dewitt
    It doesn't matter how hard you work to get something for free. The artist still doesn't see any money for the material you receive.
    GhostPlayground
    But, either way, the artists are still losing royalty money. Also, either way you'd need a computer of some sort to download the music and a piece of equipment to play the music with, which costs at least a couple hundred dollars (at minimum). Computers aren't free, and neither are iPods/mp3 players.
    metallica2354
    Metallica wasn't mad about their back catalog being shared as much as they were mad that I disappear had leaked on the internet and it wasn't even finished yet. I would be pissed too.
    Projectplayer22
    I've gotten so sick of reading about Metallica and there over-opinionated approach in the media. There more like senators and executives for Washington & the music industry now instead of what it was all about in the first place... Write a freaking album boys,,_
    Logan_B
    Still no Spotify for Canada. WTF is that about. Us and the United States are North Americans and yet we get ousted?? This makes so much sense, especially when other countries such as Sweden have access to Spotify. Figure this out already!
    NipperMcNippy
    Yeah they aint in it for the money at all... Fanboys are so blind, you poor bastards. Seeing comments that make absolute sense get down voted because it reflects your heros in a bad light is kind of lame. Oh well Metallica are a very successful company but honestly, why the hell would they put their music on Spotify? Are they really so desperate for another $600 per year? It wouldn't surprise me if Lars is a secret investor in Spotify. One other thing I'd like to mention about the whole "Disapear" and Napster issue...why wasn't Lars going after the guy who actually got the song from somewhere? Do you not see what really happened there? Publicity 101.
    Ironpriest
    Release your back catalogue on Spotify a few weeks after you gain total control from your previous record label... Lars you clever bastard!
    cambo187
    Pretty coincidental they put their music on Spotify as soon as they announce they have retained exclusive rights to their whole catalog and opened up their label. I guarantee they were able to negotiate much higher streaming royalties than the miniscule amounts the major labels get, which is why they now agree to put their music up. Can't fault a good business move I guess...
    jonnern92
    One of the bigger reasons Lars went after Napster was he saw I Disappear on the list of songs, before it was released.
    Chaduah
    what's with all the spam in comments section lately. At least 2 pitches for stupid part-time computer jobs in the one article... wtf?! Take that shit elsewhere!
    xplosive59
    What it means is that you can now listen to St Anger for free! All day, every day... for the rest of your life!
    TJHague
    I just started listening to it (never heard anything other than the title track). I now know why everyone complains about that snare...
    Jazz1992
    Listen to the "Live in Studio" versions of the songs. Much, much more listenable (is that even a word? ).
    Braykah
    "Many still regard it as the band's lowest point" Many pirating *****s who took Metallica for granted, true.
    GhostPlayground
    You gotta keep in mind what piracy is really. There are two kinds of people in the world, the rich people and the poor people. The rich people in this society generally socialize online and as a result are bombarded with advertising that causes them to think in a certain way and pay for certain things that the media tells them to. Most of the things they buy are bought simply on impulse, and will likely be thrown away or lost later. these people buy things that make themselves feel good without questioning what it is they're buying. The poor people are people like you and me, we socialize online like we're doing now and we're bombarded by the same advertising. But, since we don't have as much disposable income, we often take the time to question what it is the media is telling us to buy. often times, we don't feel good about ourselves because we don't have a lot of money to spend on things the media tells us will make us feel good so we gravitate towards the more 'underground bands' that sing about things that we can relate to. We can't afford to buy a lot of things so instead, some people buy the item and then they share it with others through piracy and streaming sites. Piracy and streaming is good because it exposes your music to the kind of people who will listen to your music and actually go to your shows when you come to town. If you show a venue a record of how many times your video was seen, how many 'likes' your band has or how many times your music was streamed/downloaded (as most sites often show) you can get gigs and you can make money. You won't make as much as mainstream bands, but you'll have a much longer shelf-life.
    latinromans
    Of course it has to be a balance. I want to live in a world where people are incentivised to make ground breaking high quality albums, people still need to pay for that, maybe not everyone, maybe only if you want to have a portable copy (youtube is probably one of the best music promotion tools around right now and I would be hypocrite if I thought people should have to pay before listening), but somewhere along the line someone has to pay for it. Either that or we enter a utopia where money is obsolete and people just create amazing art for happiness's sake(It wouldn't be the first time star trek got it right).
    sonofgkex
    Really, dude? You think that rich people don't care about how their money is spent? Trust me, being rich does not automatically mean you are an ignorant consumer. Rich people are less likely to buy random crap off the TV than poor people. That is how they remain rich. Think of it this way - If you were filling a bucket that had holes in the bottom you would not continue to pour more into the bucket until you made up for the loss through the holes. You would plug the holes. Also, "I'm poor" is not an excuse for stealing. I am not against piracy, but call it what it is.
    Eclectic Lizard
    Well if you're not rich, why not forgo buying the booze for a weekend so that you can buy Master of Puppets or something... If I can't afford a car I'm not just gonna go steal it, I'm gonna save up for it
    zeroceid
    Thats very ignorant. The truely poor people don't socialise online. They are homeless, not knowing when their next meal is coming from and have little to no possessions. To feel down about yourself when you have a computer and i assume a place to live and food, is an insult to the truely poor people. Music is a product, the same as anything in a shop. If you take a product for free, that's not free, its stealing. It is not someones given right to have music, it is a want, not a need and therefore should never be stolen.
    Desenova913
    "Many still regard it as the band's lowest point; a telling sign that Metallica, a band who had cemented their reputation in the 1980s by trading tapes with their fans, were painfully out of touch with modern music culture." But that wasn't why they wen't after NAPSTER - it was control over their own music. They know what sharing is and where they are rooted. And I was behind them when the issue came up because when something that you're STILL WORKING ON is leaked, I'd be pissed too. It's on thing if it's already done and out in the world, to me it's saying how popular I am since people want to share my music.
    latinromans
    I think the reality of the situation is that nobody really has full control anymore and that we have to learn how to work well with that.
    ffaf12
    Metallica On Spotify: What Does It Mean?.....you can know listen to one of the worst rock bands of all time for free....let the downvotes commence
    latinromans
    Man, you just made my day. Good to know people can still properly execute a joke so it's so bad that it's funny.
    henrihell
    Metallica has realized, that the key to prevent piracy. I did it, if it wasn't on spotify, and I wanted to make sure it's good before buying it, I simply downloaded it. So basically: joining spotify -> less piracy.
    Tengal
    Gah, what is up with the Napster fight being brought up time and time again. Who cares in 2012?
    INSULIN
    musician cares about money dam .you work at wal mart or etc for free.hell no.i have no freakin idea what spotify is or really itunes.
    Boz6491
    If I had to throw in my 2 cents, I would go back to what Steven Wilson once said. When asked about whether he was cool with people downloading his music he said well not really but I'd definitely rathe people listen to my music that way thn not at all. I think that is an honest but great attitude to have, a real musician cares about how popular their music is not how much money they're making. These great musicians will make money that's a given but that never should be the motivation
    Zanary
    Comparing tape trading to file sharing is ridiculous. Dubbed tapes usually lost a little cohesion, which would get lost on the next generation of copies, etc. Mix tapes from my friends got me to buy tapes/albums/CDs because I wanted to have my own clear copy. File sharing, aside from the losses that happen in making audio into MO3s, is lossless and can happen at a huge scale...instantly. Lars turned out to be right, labels are disappearing, and a bunch of self-righteous and entitled brats still insist they were right in stealing an industry into a state of serious injury.
    Northernmight
    Honestly, looking back, i think Lars was right. About the whole Napster and downloading thing. It has pretty much gotten out of hand now, to the point where artists can't survive on art anymore.
    SGofawesome
    Hey guys, rockstars have it tough too. With file-sharing and music piracy, Lars now has to wait a few months to get his gold-plated shark tank bar. Britney Spears now has to have a Gulfstream III, not a Gulfstream IV, because you thought it would be a good idea to illegally download music. Artists are doomed to a life of semi-luxury because of you file-sharing animals.