Metallica has mounted the most aggressive attack on Napster and its denizens for making the bandís music available as free downloads, going so far as to rat out 335,435 Napster users (or at least, that many Internet addresses). At the bandís May 5 press conference, drummer Lars Ulrich said that this did not contradict the bandís long term policy of letting its fans circulate live tapes. "Itís not about interviews or bootlegs. If Napster removed ĎMetallica Studio Masters,í if they would just do that, thank you, weíre done, bye bye."
What Metallica is doing makes little sense as pure greed or pure hypocrisy. It makes sense only in the light of the century-long struggle of American musicians to maintain control of their music in the face of a rapacious recording and publishing industry. Thatís why guitarist James Hetfield said, "Metallica has never been in the back seat. Weíve always been in the driverís seat."
Why does Metallica, like so many other musicians, focus on control? When a band starts out, it owns all its own music but that music is virtually worthless. The record industry alone has the capacity to turn it into something worth millions. But the price for this alchemy involves an assault on the ownership of the music, on its representation to the public, on the money that it generates, on every single aspect of its post- production circulation. Famous musicians do not become rich except by continually battling a system that wants to keep everything for itself and give the actual creators barely enough for subsistence.
Musicians in this system become gladiators, and lawyers, agents and managers are their armor. After twenty years in the music business, Metallica naturally thinks in terms of being in mortal combat with everyone who touches its music without first getting permission. And Metallica believes that only the band should define that permission: Perhaps buying a concert ticket gives you the right to make a tape (screw you, Elektra Records), or maybe buying an album doesnít even give you the right to share it (baby, you canít drive my car, even if I did sell it to you).
Apparently, the driving factor behind Metallicaís Napster attack was the wide circulation of "I Disappear" from the Mission Impossible: 2 soundtrack. But that only proves that Metallica still hasnít figured out who its real enemy is. No way could the two versions of "I Disappear" currently circulating be out there if some industry type-fan or not-hadnít illicitly distributed them. If the band kept its music to itself, or circulated it more directly, that couldnít happen Ďtil the band wanted it to happen. Doing that wouldnít require punishing 335,435 Metallica fans. It would require not doing business with the culture of thieves that is the entertainment business. As Pete Seeger, the living antithesis of heavy metal, once sang, "When will they ever learn?"
[from Rock & Rap Confidential/2000]
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