METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich joined Kara Swisher at the CNBC Evolve Summit on November 10 to explain how the music industry has changed over his career and how the band incorporates cutting-edge technology to take the fan experience to new heights.
Asked if the coronavirus crisis has enabled METALLICA to have more control and more interaction with fans, Lars said (see video below): "I guess there's two ways to go with that answer. As far as METALLICA is concerned, we have our own record label. We pretty much try to control all the different elements in our little bubble and our little ecosystem. We have a P&D [Pressing & Distribution] deal with Universal in Europe, but we try to maximize and do the best thing that we can in all the different parts of the world. And so we like to control. We're financially independent.
"We sort of model our existence, somewhat, on GRATEFUL DEAD, who really considered themselves to be living outside of the mainstream and just [functioned] in their own world," he explained. "And that's been our dream — to just be independent, autonomous, to be able to create the music, not owe anybody any money, and just really be independent in every sense of that word.
"So when you say who has the control, we like to think in our bubble that we do, but, obviously, we're also very fortunate in that we can channel the success that we're so grateful for into financial independence."
Ulrich also talked about the fact that anyone can release music independently now, which has given some artists more control and transparency over their work but has also led to oversaturation.
"Obviously, the tech companies and the media companies have an incredible amount of control," Lars said. "To me, it's all about the context of the conversation. So when you talk about control, what does it really mean, and what are your goals and what are your motives?
"It's an incredible thing that in 2020, if you and I wanted to make a record together, you and I could make a record together through the wonders of Zoom and we could have a record in a few weeks and we could put it out on YouTube, we could put it on SoundCloud, we could probably get it on Spotify, if we really wanted," he continued. "So we have the independence and the ability to be much more the creators of our own destiny. At the same time, what the record companies did 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago was that they were able to finance it, they were able to back it, they were able to promote it, they were able to publicize it, and they were able to make each thing stand out in a way that would show up on people's radar.
"So if you and I made a record together, there's a pretty good chance that not a lot of people would hear about it. But in the age of the record companies, they would be able to promote it and pay for MTV videos and do this whole publicity exercise.
"The good news is that these mediums are available to so many more people," Lars added. "The bad news is that nothing really stands out, because there's so much more content available. And therein lies that kind of push and pull. What are you more in favor of? Of just complete independence and autonomy as a creative person? Because the record companies obviously had a function, which was that they were able to get your stuff out there and on people's radar."
In early May, the four members of METALLICA overcame social distancing to record a new version of their song "Blackened", with each member separated in his own home. The split-screen video was posted to the band's social media channels. That same month, Ulrich told Swedish talk show host Fredrik Skavlan that he and his bandmates were "sending ideas to each other via e-mail and via Zoom and [trying to] make music in these unusual situations."
In August, METALLICA broadcast a show to hundreds of drive-in and outdoor theaters across the U.S. and Canada, as part of the "Encore Drive-In Nights" series. The concert was filmed nearly three weeks earlier, on August 10, at the Gundlach Bundschu winery, about a 30-minute car ride from the band's headquarters in San Rafael, California, and was subsequently edited and mixed by the band's award-winning production team to the highest standards possible.
METALLICA's "Live & Acoustic From HQ: Helping Hands Concert & Auction" will be streamed live from the band's headquarters on Saturday, November 14. The special acoustic show starts at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time and will benefit METALLICA's All Within My Hands foundation. If you are not able to watch the show live, your ticket will allow you to watch the show as many times as you like within a 48-hour period once you start the stream.