Metallica has opened its entire back catalogue to the music streaming service Spotify in a move that ends a long-running dispute with Napster co-founder Sean Parker.
In a move that signalled the end to the Holier Than Thou attitudes that kept the two warring sides at arm’s length, drummer Lars Ulrich appeared on stage in New York with Spotify investor Parker to put an end to the dozen year long legal dispute. In the end, Nothing Else Matters but that the show must go on, and now thankfully Spotify users will not have to make do with cover versions of such classics as Enter Sandman, which was a huge hit at the O2 Arenaback in 2009.
Parker achieved widespread notoriety for his integral role as co-creator of peer-to-peer music pioneer Napster. Many including Metallica, accused the site of music piracy. Napster was condemned by many commentators for their role in instigating the glut of music piracy that has had a far-reaching impact on the music industry. One major spin off has been the advent of the online music download industry, whose sales are believed to now exceed hard copy sales. Music is now much more accessible to fans everywhere and at a significantly lower cost, partly in thanks to the savings music producers have gained from being able to remove packaging and production costs.
However, Napster, by offering the music for free, on a public sharing basis, significantly impacted the ability of producers and artists to generate sufficient revenue to pay for their recordings. Metallica was one of the most vehemently opposed bands to peer-to-peer sharing, and they have been one of the relatively few big artists to refuse to participate in Spotify. Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix’s estate were also initially reluctant to join the online streaming music site, but they joined up prior to Metallica.
In a bid to defuse the hostilities, Parker apologised and asked for understanding about his role in Napster. Assuring them of his good faith, he reiterated that his motivations were not financial and that he did not aim to steal music as such, but to simply make it more available to music fans. The negative publicity campaign and legal war waged against Napster eventually forced it into bankruptcy, but in 2011 it relaunched as a legal music subscription site.
Metallica drummer Ulrich also made efforts to put the bitter past behind. Commenting on the legal action, he said that the “bubble” the band existed in made them particularly defensive and controlling when it came to protecting their music assets. He went on to say that having that control stripped away from them led them to have a fight mentality that quickly led to elevated tensions between the two protagonists. Parker concurred saying that because the dispute was quickly publicly characterised as a fight, it became easy for them to exaggerate the differences in opinion between the two sides.
Now rejoicing in happier, less volatile times, Ulrich informed the audience at the Spotify press event of the band’s delight that they now owned their own back catalogue for the first time – a day it has been waiting for over 15 years.
Spotify, thrilled at the absence of No Remorse between the two parties, also announced a host of new features for its service, as well as remarking on its success – saying that it now had more than 5-million paid subscribers worldwide.
Top artists like Metallica will have greater exposure thanks to a new feature that allows users to “follow” influential artists and their tastes. Top artists and personalities that have signed up to lead by posting their tastes, includes teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, former Beatle Paul McCartney and US President Barack Obama.
The UK-headquartered company also trumpeted the good work it has done for the music industry as a whole, reminding us that it had paid out over $500m (£311m) to record labels since the service launched.