METALLICA have partnered with Seattle DSL Online provider Speakeasy and developed Metallicavault.com, a web site that will contain hours of downloadable live recordings, demos and B-sides for free.
Unlike many bands that offer free concert footage, song lyrics and music samples, Metallicavault.com's content will only be made available to those who purchase the band's upcoming CD. Copies of "St. Anger", which will be released Thursday, will contain a pass code that will allow fans to gain access to the site. About six hours of music will be available, with most of the songs coming from past concerts. It is the first time that the band has released their music online — though dozens of METALLICA songs can be found through free music services.
One downloadable show is from June 17, 1994 at the Orange County Speedway in Middletown, New York, during the "Black Album" tour. Another is from October 6, 1996 at the Birmingham NEC in Birmingham, England, from the "Load" tour. The final concert is from July 4, 1998 at the Polaris Amphitheater in Columbus, Ohio, from their tour behind "Reload". Drummer Lars Ulrich handpicked each of the recordings, as well as many that will be posted on the site in the coming weeks.
The idea of cross promoting a CD with an online music site is unique. Speakeasy Chief Executive Mike Apgar, whose firm was contacted by METALLICA about the project, said he was unaware of any other bands that had taken this approach.
"This is the first time I have seen anything quite like this," Apgar told Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Fans are buying the CD, getting a code, going to the site and getting unique never-before-heard content that is of a very high quality and is hand-picked by the members of the band."
Apgar, who declined to disclose financial terms of the deal, said there is nothing to stop METALLICA fans from transferring the pass codes to friends or posting them on the Internet.
Speakeasy, which operates a national broadband Internet network with more than 50,000 customers, is in discussions with other bands about similar offerings. Apgar declined to disclose any names.
"The question for us is what is the right model to bring more music related value to our customers," said Apgar. "This is the first of its kind for us working directly with a band. And we are anxious to see what happens here." He said there are opportunities for Speakeasy to do additional cross promotions with METALLICA. Speakeasy already offers customers free access to the Rhapsody online music service as part of its offering.
While online music analyst Lee Black was unaware of the METALLICA site, he said it would not surprise him if more bands attempted to boost CD sales by offering specialized content on the Web.
"This is a smart move," said Black, an analyst with Jupiter Media. "METALLICA has a loyal fan base and that fan base made them what they are. Why not create a place to put lots of content out there that is rich in historical value and allows the band to communicate with their fans?"
METALLICA have fought hard to prevent piracy of its music on the Internet. In 2000, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich told a Senate committee that "Napster hijacked our music without asking." The band settled a copyright infringement lawsuit against the music service in 2001. Yesterday, METALLICA moved up the release date of "St. Anger" in order to make sure that counterfeit copies of their first studio album in five years do not gain wide acceptance.
"We've always wanted our fans to experience our music online," said Ulrich in a statement announcing the Speakeasy partnership. "But up until now, the existing distribution methods have not passed the kind of quality standards our fans have come to expect from us."