For the past few weeks, Metallica have been telling fans that their first studio album in eight years, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, will be ‘available everywhere November 18’.
They’ve just come good on that promise – in a bigger way than anyone could have predicted.
This tranche of new material includes fresh studio tracks such as Spit Out The Bone, Murder One and Halo On Fire.
It’s a surprising decision from Metallica – not least because their long-term manager, Q Prime’s Peter Mensch, called YouTube “the devil” in an interview earlier this year.
Discussing the band’s meagre payments from YouTube, Mensch told the BBC in April:
“YouTube? They’re the devil. If someone doesn’t do something about YouTube, we’re screwed. It’s over. Turn off the lights.”
Metallica owns the master copyright to Hardwired… To Self-Destruct – one of Q4’s most anticipated releases – via their own Blackened Recordings Inc.
That means the YouTube move must be completely their own idea.
So what’s gone on here?
Maybe the band knew their fans were going to upload the tracks anyway, and so wanted to maintain some creative control over how they appeared.
Maybe YouTube held progressive discussions with Peter Mensch and Metallica following his ‘devil’ outburst.
Maybe Lyor Cohen’s had a hand in this decision.
Or maybe Metallica are just being Metallica – and deliberately, controversially, turning expectations on their head.
That’s doubly true when you consider the group’s reputation in the face of digital platforms who play fast and loose with copyright.
In 2000, at the US District Court in Northern California, Metallica launched a lawsuit against Napster – seeking a minimum of $10m in damages.
The story was continually spun by tech lobbyists at the time as the band ‘suing their own fans’.
The group’s Lars Ulrich said in a TV interview at the time:
“There are millions of dollars involved in [technology companies] just as there’s millions of dollars involved in the evils of the music business. And if the record company bosses don’t take the money then the internet people are going to take the money…
“I can guarantee you, there is nobody at Napster that is doing this as a charitable event for all of mankind.”Music Business Worldwide