LITTLE PISS BOILER PART THREE – Why Metallica Missed A Trick And How Napster Really Wasn’t Anything New

Despite illegal downloading, music doesn’t pay THAT badly

Don’t get me wrong. I was practically breastfed on Metallica. When I first started suckling on the teat of music it was your Venoms and your Metallicas and your Iron Maidens that hardened my feeble teenage immune system. But it’s difficult, later in life, to see your idols start acting like mean hearted pricks. Watching Hetfield et al dressing in suits was a bit of a jolt, but I appreciate everyone’s got to grow up sometime – yes I’m talking to you Status Quo.

So Metallica lost their way and did a couple of slightly crappy experimental albums. So what? Who hasn’t lost their way at some point in life? Even Maiden did “Somewhere in Time”, though I actually rather liked that personally. But the Napster thing, that was just bullying plain and simple.

I was something of a late developer when it comes to the internet. Actually, that’s not quite true. At university, I used an academic prototype in the Eighties. It even had instant messaging. But to the World Wide Web itself, I was something of a Johnny Come Lately. My girlfriend introduced me to it, and one of the first things she showed me was Napster.

I was in my early thirties, and what with moving around a lot and getting divorced, I had lost all of my old vinyl. And even if I hadn’t, I didn’t have a stereo to play my collection on anyway. So Napster was brilliant, if infuriatingly slow – a point I will come to again shortly. I learned things from it too. Some of the music I remembered being nuts about was no longer my cup of tea at all. Still liked Metallica though. Still fucking loved Metallica, in fact.

So on the basis of this, I was about to do something. Being a grown up now, with a job and money and all that, I was going to replace all my old Metallica vinyl on CD, because I did at least get custody of a CD player – not the good one mind-  after the aforementioned divorce. I was even considering buying the new stuff that all the critics had slated, on the off chance that my new, altered tastes might find them palatable. Then something stopped me dead in my tracks. I found out about the Napster thing.

I could see their point, naturally, but I thought it was an outrageously hypocritical one. It was theft, they said, which of course it was. Just like home taping was theft back in the day. But were they seriously expecting us to believe that when they were poor and practising in their garages, thrashing along to Ozzy or whoever, that they always used spanking new shop bought albums? That they never once had any of those songs on a cassette? Well, Ulrich might not have done perhaps, as his parents were quite well off. But Hetfield? I don’t think so. And if not one of the band ever made a love sick mix tape for some girlfriend or other, then they were the only boys in America that didn’t.

Getting fans actually banned from the internet, how does that endear you to the music buying public when the general consensus is that your last two albums were shit? How is that a smart business move? And these poor bastards were fans otherwise they wouldn’t have wanted the songs in the first place. And poor is the operative word here.

When this was all happening, practically nobody had broadband. File sharing went at a snail’s pace, so unless you were unemployed, it wasn’t really a practical way to build up a music collection. It would probably have been easier and quicker to walk the local library, borrow some Metallica CD’s and put those on your computer. It’s a wonder Ulrich didn’t try to ban public libraries too.

To be fair to them though, Metallica did get their act together eventually. They made that long and painful documentary “Some Kind of Monster”. They realized what insufferable dicks they were being, even to each other. And they did it right out there in the open. Got to give them some credit for that.

That said, I never did get my credit card out and stroll to HMV to replace my long lost copies of The Black Album or Ride The Lightning, just on pure hard headed principle. The image of Ulrich and Hetfield – they were the main instigators – bemoaning the fact that they were struggling to heat the pools in their second mansions was just too strong.

Not that they ever actually did that of course, but that’s what I imagined. Wonder how many sales they lost from other stubborn and bitter divorcees making a similar decision? After all, they’re not the only men who can take out their anger and frustration on someone they never have, and never will, meet.

© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013

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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

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