HOW METALLICA WILL INEVITABLY RUIN THEIR GOODWILL
It hasn’t been easy being in Metallica this decade. Metallica — namely drummer Lars Ulrich — were the laughing stock of the music world in 2001. The band released the worst album of their career which was universally heralded as a piece of shit, following a terrible public relations spat in which Ulrich appeared to be an ignorant neophyte (and asshole) by declaring war against file-sharers and proceeding to sue his fans.
Fast-forward to 2007/2008; all is pretty good in Metallica-land. After years of hearing endless criticism of St. Anger and releasing a riveting tell-all movie about the making of that album that further damaged the reputation of the band, things were starting to look up. The band got wise to the ways of the Internet and made a bunch of cool, fan-friendly moves, among them making several live shows available for download on their website and launching a fan site called Mission Metallica that gave fans behind-the-scenes access. The press is in a tizzy with buzz about the new album. Will it be good or won’t it? No matter which side of the fence you fall on, you’re at least curious. And regardless of which camp you fall into, the men of Metallica at least seem to have the public back on their side to some degree.
And now they go and fuck it up by committing another public relations faux pais, demanding that negative reviews about the album — which they played to limited press — be removed from the Internet. Talk about dunder-headed business moves, this is Exhibit A right here.
What a motherfucking sack of bullshit. Clearly either Metallica or their management (Q-Prime — who I do have a tremendous amount of respect for, FYI) have majorly fucked up. Demanding negative press be stricken from the record not only hurts the band by taking them out of the gossip ring but shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how the Internet works and how to utilize it best. You can NOT control the Internet; what you can do is set up communities for fans to do PR work for you, a concept it appeared that the band / their management understood until now. Ultimately Q-Prime and Metallica have proven they’re still operating in the old music world, where labels and managers acted as the gatekeepers doling music upon the public as they see fit. The power in the Internet is that the fan is inherently in charge; instead of trying to fight that, Q-Prime ought to embrace it. But now they have demonstrated that they will follow all the old rules; throw a ton of money of radio, video, and the no-one-in-particular audience rather than focusing on the niches and allowing fans to do the work for them.
Based on these events, I would expect the band and management to be extremely pissed when the album leaks (which it inevitably will) rather than finding ways to make an album leak irrelevant — i.e. focusing on their fan club, merch and other products. When that happens, Lars will once again go on a tirade about how all the fans are a bunch of crooks and the music industry is ruined. Well, duh! It ain’t the same as it used to be. We know this. If Metallica were smart they’d figure out how to take this knowledge and move on into the new world rather than hoping things return to the way they were.
Too bad. Metallica almost had their good will back. Now they’ve done a great job proving that they haven’t changed at all.