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DSL Headbangers

Metallica strikes Speakeasy Deal
by Karl Bode

Metallica, the band that created sparks on the information superhighway after scrapping with file trading service Napster, has struck a deal with DSL provider Speakeasy to offer live concerts and assorted other head-banging goodies on-line. The band’s latest album will contain an activation code that allows buyers access to the Speakeasy hosted Metallica Vault, where they can obtain live recordings, demos, b-sides and other content.

Lars Ulrich, the band’s drummer, spent several years engaged in verbal pugilism with the file trading community. While in the past he’s conceded that CD prices are too high, he’s argued that the band simply wants control of the music they create. For some perspective on his opinions you can check out his interview with Slashdot, or the transcript of his testimony on Napster before Congress. Also interesting was this Charlie Rose program which featured Ulrich debating the merits of file trading with Rapper Chuck D.

Ulrich notes in a statement that “We’ve always wanted our fans to experience our music online,” but suggests that “up until now, the existing distribution methods have not passed the kind of ‘quality’ standards our fans have come to expect from us. We want the music that will be accessed on Metallica Vault to be the best of the best, available on the Internet. We’re raising the bar here, and we know that Speakeasy shares our philosophy and gets what we’re trying to do.”

It has long been argued by many in the file trading community that if labels aren’t willing to lower album prices, they should be willing to provide users with either additional content, concert price reductions, or some other token of good will. As opposed to improving their product or reducing costs to regain customer appreciation, much of the record industry has turned to verbal warnings and legal threats instead.

So far the offering of such content has been rare. In 2001 the Black Crowes experimented with the idea of giving away live music as a thank you to fans that purchased their album. The most aggressive of such services was launched by a band named Phish; their LivePhish website allowing fans to create CD-quality files, create homemade three-disc sets of live shows, even obtain cover-art and booklets, all for a fee. The site even offers users cases and blank CD-Rs for the ‘forgetful’.

According to a Speakeasy representative we spoke to this afternoon, the decision to expand the Metallica Vault service is entirely in the hands of Metallica themselves. Content will be continually updated on the website, with neither party ruling out an eventual evolution of the service. The band’s primary goal is to have a site that is a “comprehensive” Metallica cyber-presence. For the time being however, the website and the content it offers will simply exist as a ‘thank you’ to fans who purchased the most recent album.

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