Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Metallica'$ new mi$$ion / life after Warner Bros.

Wired and various music news sources report:
"Metallica's future with its record label, Warner Bros. Records, may not extend past the release of the band's ninth studio album this fall. According to Bloomberg.com, Edgar Bronfman Jr., CEO of the Warner Music Group, declined to comment on the status of contract negotiations with the band during a quarterly conference call earlier this month. The new Metallica album is the band's last under its current contract with the label, which dates back to 1984 when the quartet first signed with Warner subsidiary Elektra Records.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich says that finishing out its recording contract was a liberating experience for the band: "It's awesome. I mean, to be out of your record contract, it's exciting just because of, what are the new -- and that's not anything disrespectful about the great bunch of people up at Warner Bros. Records. But it's just exciting to be able to communicate directly with your fans, and having the opportunities to do it, you know. I think that's really exciting."

Warner Music has already lost Madonna to Live Nation and is reportedly paying a tremendous amount of money to keep Nickelback under contract, while other artists that have recently defected from the major labels include Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead.

Metallica has been watching what Radiohead and Trent Reznor have been up to.... [I]t hopes to make amends with fans still angry about the Metallica-killed-Napster episode years ago with a new website called Mission: Metallica, offering fans a chance to "experience the new album before it's done" that will offer its upcoming album in the unprotected MP3 format -- no digital rights management attached.

However, unlike Radiohead and NIN, Metallica won't offer its album for free. When the two-years-in-the-making album is finally ready to be released, members of the site will be able to download it in the DRM-free MP3 format (320 Kbps) -- quite a big step for the band that sued the original Napster. The album will also be available in vinyl and CD formats, each of which will also come with release-day digital download versions.

But the album's just the tip of the iceberg, according to the band, which plans to use the site to open up to its fans, somewhat in the style of Some Kind of Monster.

"Mission: Metallica is your inside look at the past two years of riffing, writing and recording," reads a note on the site, which was created by the band's label, Warner Music Group. "[It's] proof that we've actually been doing shit most of this time! We're gonna open the floodgates and share with you photos, videos, riffs and a lot more."

This represents a big move for Metallica and its major label overlord away from DRM and towards unprotected music. And since it requires the creation of a profile, the site will also likely become a sort of social network for Metallica fans as the album is released and the band goes on tour in support of it.

That said, the band and its label still have one foot in the old music industry. Mission: Metallica offers fans certain things for free (mostly in the form of video footage and teasers for the album), but the decision not to offer a free version of the album looks major label-ish when compared to Radiohead's and Nine Inch Nails' full album giveaways.

Fans have several options when signing up for Mission: Metallica, from free all the way up to $125."

Main sources: here and here.

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