Metallica: …And Censorship For All

Metallica has done it again. Forget going after people pirating their music; this time they’ve gone after people writing about it… after inviting them to hear it.

The Story So Far

MetallicaHere’s how the story goes: Metallica representatives recently played tracks from their upcoming album to a bunch of critics/bloggers/journalists (depending on whose take on this you read). They then (surprise surprise) blogged about what they heard.

As Wired’s Listening Post blog reports:

“At no point was the writer ask[ed] to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The Quietus and other websites ran pieces on the album, but were quickly contacted by Metallica’s management via a third party and told to remove the articles.”

Blogostorm

Surprise surprise – a storm has erupted in the blogosphere:

You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to tell how Metallica is coming across in these posts but in case it wasn’t clear, here’s a quote from the CNet piece:

In the wide world of music, our level of distrust first begins with the RIAA, but Metallica is running a close second.

PR Disaster

It’s hard to imagine a worse PR disaster for a band that, until this point Metallica had seemed to be warming to the Internet recently.

They’ve allowed their tunes to be sold through iTunes, they have a cool new website, Mission: Metallica and Ethan Kaplan, head of technology at Warner Bros records (who was behind the new site) gushed about some of their latest efforts at mesh 2008 recently. It seems, though, that they still have a lot to learn.

However, Metallica lost much of their credibility with fans after going after Napster a few years ago – a move that still looms large in peoples’ minds (and was the first thing out of the mouths of my colleagues when I discussed this with them today).

On top of that, consider that this revolves around an event where writers were invited to listen to the new songs, without a non-disclosure agreement… and that their reviews were largely positive by all accounts.

Recovery?

How can the band dig its way out of this situation?

Before thinking about that, you need to ask yourself a couple of important questions:

Should they just move on?

Is this situation salvageable? Given the apparent contradiction in their approach to this situation so far, perhaps it’s best for the band to ride this one out and learn from their mistakes.

Do they need to respond?

Metallica has a die-hard fan base. They’ve been around for 27 years now, and many of their fans are long-time listeners that, quite frankly, won’t be put off by a few bad articles in the press. Let’s face it, they’ve been getting those since they put out the ‘Load’ album back in the ’90s.

Still, some of the comments I’ve read recently seem to indicate that they’ve even managed to annoy some hard-core fans. Perhaps some damage-control is in order.

What To Do?

Knowing that they’re unlikely to go the Nine Inch Nails route, what could they do?

Go One Better?

Why not let those the writers listen to the full album once it’s done (along with an assurance they can write about it)? No bribing, just an honest attempt to make things better.

Personally I think this might be problematic. There’s not a lot of trust in Metallica right now, as I discussed earlier. What’s more, I’m not sure these publications would give them a second chance. The horse may have already bolted on this one (insert Ride the Lightning pun here).

Apologize

Someone, somewhere has screwed up. Maybe the band didn’t know about the advance listening and freaked out. Maybe two people in the record company got their wires crossed. Maybe someone forgot to arrange for a non-disclosure agreement. Who knows.

If the band wants to say anything about this situation, they need to apologize first. Whatever went wrong, they need to figure it out and apologize to the people involved. Don’t point fingers at the writers or make excuses. Just say sorry.

That’s my take on this one. I’m not sure I can see a way for Metallica to come out of this looking good. Their options seem to be to either ride this one out or to risk re-stirring the pot and apologizing.

I think the damage may be done. Perhaps the ‘duck and cover’ approach might be better here. What do you think?

Can you think of a way Metallica could salvage this situation?

14 comments
Kevin Behringer
Kevin Behringer

Dave:

I agreed with you..until this morning. If you go to metallica.com, they have posted a response. Now, I don't know if it's completely truthful or if they are responding to the blowback, but they responded. And, they post links to the offending blog posts...so it seems that they're making an effort.

Kevin

Kevin Behringer
Kevin Behringer

Dave: I agreed with you..until this morning. If you go to metallica.com, they have posted a response. Now, I don't know if it's completely truthful or if they are responding to the blowback, but they responded. And, they post links to the offending blog posts...so it seems that they're making an effort. Kevin

Nuno Teixeira
Nuno Teixeira

I scanned across news of this during me RSS Feed grind yesterday night at 2am, tired as hell, and all I could think was: "No, they didn't. How the hell are they still around and releasing stuff?!"

I was too tired to read it all and figured I'd come back to it. I open up Twhirl and you're tweet is the first I see :).

WOrked out for me you did all the blogger impact collection for me.

My thoughts on Metallica as a surviving band (as we can see after Napster) is to make a 180 degree turn and face this blunder asap.

Ultimately, with a major 27 year old fan base, they likely have fans over 40, nearing 50 (and no offense to them) that just don't care about the internet. Napster WAS wrong to this generation, regardless of the terrible PR it was. Secondly, this blogger reaction storm also would likely mean very little.

MY youthful early teenage years included Metallica in them--we all remember the Black Album... But once the internet became part of my life, more and more, with each year, my dedication to the net and what's it's all about won over.

It'll always get my vote. Metallica needs to consider those youthful teens again who, for them, there was NEVER a world without internet. I can only imagine and assume, many of them have alternative band choices to turn too instead of Metallica after this, and they will walk.

Nuno Teixeira
Nuno Teixeira

I scanned across news of this during me RSS Feed grind yesterday night at 2am, tired as hell, and all I could think was: "No, they didn't. How the hell are they still around and releasing stuff?!" I was too tired to read it all and figured I'd come back to it. I open up Twhirl and you're tweet is the first I see :). WOrked out for me you did all the blogger impact collection for me. My thoughts on Metallica as a surviving band (as we can see after Napster) is to make a 180 degree turn and face this blunder asap. Ultimately, with a major 27 year old fan base, they likely have fans over 40, nearing 50 (and no offense to them) that just don't care about the internet. Napster WAS wrong to this generation, regardless of the terrible PR it was. Secondly, this blogger reaction storm also would likely mean very little. MY youthful early teenage years included Metallica in them--we all remember the Black Album... But once the internet became part of my life, more and more, with each year, my dedication to the net and what's it's all about won over. It'll always get my vote. Metallica needs to consider those youthful teens again who, for them, there was NEVER a world without internet. I can only imagine and assume, many of them have alternative band choices to turn too instead of Metallica after this, and they will walk.

Jen Zingsheim
Jen Zingsheim

The whole thing is bizarre...why invite writers if you didn't want them to write about it? If there was a mistake made by someone, (forgetting the NDA, for example) admit that, apologize, and move on. I continue to be baffled by companies/organizations/groups that don't seem to understand that going after customers/clients/fans is self-destructive to their brands.

I hope they figure this out, quickly.

Jen

Jen Zingsheim
Jen Zingsheim

The whole thing is bizarre...why invite writers if you didn't want them to write about it? If there was a mistake made by someone, (forgetting the NDA, for example) admit that, apologize, and move on. I continue to be baffled by companies/organizations/groups that don't seem to understand that going after customers/clients/fans is self-destructive to their brands. I hope they figure this out, quickly. Jen

Morghus
Morghus

To quote a friend of mine "I used to be one of their biggest fans, I thought they were cool, that they wanted to be our friends, all that. Then they went and showed us all they cared about is money." - they lost him as a fan, and you can bet your ass this isn't going to improve it.

Maybe their music isn't good enough or something, because the least I'd expect was for people to download the wee amounts of music they made, but I've heard nothing about Metallica from anyone for years. Unless it's bashing them for being haters and lamers, stuff like that.

Morghus
Morghus

To quote a friend of mine "I used to be one of their biggest fans, I thought they were cool, that they wanted to be our friends, all that. Then they went and showed us all they cared about is money." - they lost him as a fan, and you can bet your ass this isn't going to improve it. Maybe their music isn't good enough or something, because the least I'd expect was for people to download the wee amounts of music they made, but I've heard nothing about Metallica from anyone for years. Unless it's bashing them for being haters and lamers, stuff like that.

Amanda Laird
Amanda Laird

I agree with you on sorry. Sometimes that's all it takes.

Amanda Laird
Amanda Laird

I agree with you on sorry. Sometimes that's all it takes.

Rick Weiss
Rick Weiss

I have to say, after the Napster fiasco, I lost all interest in Metallica. Apart from the Camp Chaos videos. (NAPSTER BAD!!)

Reading about this blunder? I don't even care. For those die-hards that continue to stick by Metallica, I don't think the bad press will matter.

I think it's really a matter of whether they care to patch up current and future blogger relations with an apology and peace offering.

Rick Weiss
Rick Weiss

I have to say, after the Napster fiasco, I lost all interest in Metallica. Apart from the Camp Chaos videos. (NAPSTER BAD!!) Reading about this blunder? I don't even care. For those die-hards that continue to stick by Metallica, I don't think the bad press will matter. I think it's really a matter of whether they care to patch up current and future blogger relations with an apology and peace offering.