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.