Metallica’s Mission: Screwing Over Fans?

I have a long history with Metallica, as they were essentially my introduction to the world of metal, along with other young Gen-X metal kids, now grown adults, who watched Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. I was fully devoted all the way up until Load, when suddenly they became a jam band and they never really got me back from that. I’ll still rock out to their pre-Load but I can’t bring myself to say I am a fan in the same way.

The whole Napster thing didn’t harbor any fan goodwill, but another thing that’s kind of bugged is the way Metallica has monetized the fan experience so thoroughly, essentially charging their most hardcore fans for their devotion. A standard fan club membership won’t get you access to a good chunk of the website; gotta shell out a bit more for that. Then their Mission: Metallica website gives fans a chance to download the new album – for $12 bucks, higher than the usual going rate of digital downloads, $9.99. No thanks guys, I think Lars has enough modern art paintings to sell at Christie’s.

Now comes word from Ars Technica that the guys have cracked down on bloggers and journalists who have reviews a leak of the new album, even though the band was the one who invited said bloggers and journalists to a listening party in the first place:

Here’s the scenario: internationally known heavy metal band with long history in the business invites music critics in London to listen to six tracks off the band’s forthcoming album. Those critics then write reviews based on what they’ve heard. Despite the total lack of any non-disclosure agreements and the fact that the band must have known what it was doing, its management then contacted the blogs in question and asked them to take down the reviews.

Actually, “asked” may be a polite way of putting it. The music blog Blinded by the Hype contacted The Quietus, one of the blogs that had run a review, wondering what had happened to the piece. The answer, from editor Luke Turner, was clear. “The Quietus kept our article up the longest and, as no nondisclosure agreement had been signed,” he wrote, “[we were] not prepared to remove it merely due to the demands of Metallica’s management. We only removed the article earlier today to protect the professional interests of the writer concerned.”

I nott makes absolutely no sense to invite the media to preview an album and then put a gag order on it. They are going the Prince route of not only punishing fans for their devotion, but also the media for having interest. Devotion has its limits; I would not be surprised if they get the cold shoulder from the media once the album is done and ready for promotion. It would serve them right, IMO.

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