In 2000, Metallica famously sued Napster for copyright infringement. The heavy metal outfit not only asked for its entire catalog to be removed from Napster, but requested that about 330,00 users who had downloaded their music be banned from the platform altogether. The legal action shook the music industry to its core and drew sharp criticism from the band’s loyal fans, many of whom felt betrayed.
Now, some 20 years later, Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett maintains that they were right to take legal action against Napster. He points to the evolution of the music industry as proof that they acted prudently and were even ahead of the curve in terms of protecting the value of their music. Plus, at the time Lars Ulrich really needed that gold-plated shark tank pool installed by his bar.
“The whole Napster thing – it didn’t do us any favors whatsoever. But you know what? We’re still in the right on that — we’re still right about Napster, no matter who’s out there who’s saying, ‘Metallica was wrong,'” Hammett recently told Swedish TV show Nyhetsmorgon (via Rolling Stone).
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“All you have to do is look at the state of the music industry, and that kind of explains the whole situation right there,” he added. In many ways, Hammett has a strong point; music’s worth is no longer measured in the same monetary way all thanks to its digitization. Music piracy still persists, but in addition, actual album sales have plummeted and streaming services such as Spotify — notorious for their measly artist payouts — are the biggest distributors of music.
What’s more, streaming platforms have also diminished the sound quality of music. “There was a time when the streaming thing was kinda weird, and it’s not that great of quality – I don’t care what anyone sounds about modern streaming, all these ‘bits’ and whatnot. It’s never going to sound better than vinyl,” Hammett explained.
Even so, from a business standpoint, Hammett understands the need to adapt to the times in order to keep up with other acts. “Having that said, we want to be accessible, and you need to make sure you’re accessible on all the modern fronts.” If you’ll recall, Metallica finally returned their discography to the rebranded and legitimized Napster in 2016. The decision coincided with the release of Hardwired … to Self-Destruct, their first album to be shared on streaming platforms.