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Metallica's Lars Ulrich on label future, Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger

Reporting from Austin, Texas — Metallica was in Austin last week for a not-so-secret show at the South by Southwest music festival designed to promote a new edition of the video game Guitar Hero, due out this month. But the band's outspoken drummer, Lars Ulrich, took the opportunity to set the record straight on key issues facing the group, including its relationship with its longtime label Warner Music Group and the proposed Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger.

Metallica's 2008 release "Death Magnetic" was the last the group contractually owed to Warner, and Ulrich said he's ready to consult with another famously anti-corporate artist, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, about surviving outside the major-label system.

When asked if the band needed a major label, Ulrich, despite being surrounded by Warner reps, didn't mince words. "Without offending any of the good people from the record company in the room, no," Ulrich said. "Let's cut to the chase. . . . The primary -- not the only, but the primary -- function of a record label is to act as a bank. When you're fortunate enough to be successful and so on, you don't need to rely on record companies as the banks. . . .

"We're doing a bunch of shows with Trent this summer in Europe. I look forward to sitting down and talking to him about what's on his radar."

Reznor last week lashed out at the proposed merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. Bruce Springsteen too criticized the potential union after his fans complained that they were redirected from Ticketmaster to its resale site, TicketsNow, when they tried to purchase seats to an upcoming New Jersey concert.

Other artists, however, including Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, Shakira and Seal, have written letters to Congress in support of the proposed merger, which is being looked at by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Metallica has historically worked with multiple promoters on its tours, a label representative said. "We haven't sold out to Live Nation, and we are certainly not planning on it," Ulrich said. "And we are very, very fortunate that we do not need what they offer to continue to be who we are.

"Certainly, some of the practices that come in the wake of this -- like direct reselling and all the stuff that Bruce was up against in January and some of these other things -- obviously are very distasteful, and downright . . . it's just ripping people off," he added. "It's impure. So obviously I'd stand up and scream from every rooftop that I think that's . . . impure."

As for any perceived impurities being affiliated with the Guitar Hero machine, well, Ulrich's not too worried. "When we got a chance to do this -- and hopefully score another couple years of being semi-cool in our kid's eyes by having our own video game -- this is something we jumped at pretty quickly," he said. "The bigger questions about brandings and perceptions? I really believe that if we sit here five years from now or 10 years . . . it'll be a fairly standard way of releasing music."

--Todd Martens

The video above has extended answers from Ulrich.

Comments () | Archives (10)

Right... what moron would pay those prices to see has been, over-rated, spoiled musicians play tired, old, over-played songs? Music like sports are services not commodities and no show should ever cost more than $20-25 bucks. These clowns act like AIG and just don't get it.

OK, so downloads have won the battle royale that Lars fought to win, and now he gets all elegaic on us. What hypocritical twit. First he gloms onto the Sword in a vain attempt cop a little hipster street-cred, and now he's an expert on independent promotion? Gimme a break - I do love this band's music but fergawdsake they have been on major labels their entire career, and Lars is about the last person in the industry to claim any credibility on the subject of DIY or making a living in the music industry as it exists in 2009. If you want to provide insightful information to your readers, you should avoid the self-inflated playahs like Lars, who have very little to offer in the way of informed commentary on the state of the music industry.

Lars is a self indulgent personality and could ramble on about the way he chews his gum is better than the way you chew gum. That is about how deep it gets with most of Lars' commentaries and should stop trying to be Bono who can wax a bit better.

Metallica have always been about two things primarily, controlling their own music and preserving the right to do things their own way. People that lost their napster accts because of Lars and will be forever pissed at the band (give it up people!) don't truly understand that Metallica was only working to preserve their own music. Way back in 1989 I remember standing in a huge line to buy 'taper' seats to see Metallica at The Forum, where I went to 4 nights out of five played by the band and brought along a whole camcorder / cassette tape set up. They were pioneers in doing that kind of stuff all through their careers. As long winded and self-absorbed Ulrich might come across, his main interest seems to always be in keeping control over their music, which is much like any brand would try to preserve what it is they make or likeness they have. I can see Metallica trailblazing this aspect of the music industry much like they have done in other aspects. Say one thing about Metallica, inspite of the self-importance Lars displays, they always try to do things their own way - for better or for worse...

Can't knock him for taking control of his business, and times are changing and record labels just aren't needed like cassettes and 8 tracks, times change

The moron's moron at it again. The thing he's very fortunate about is that a guy that stupid can be successful at anything. I'll never forget being part of a contingent that booed the hell out of him in San Mateo on the courthouse steps during the Napster fiasco.

Then again he is a pioneer in the corporate kiss ass faux sincerity dude rock genre...........

Control is an illusion. Those who fight to keep control will find it slip through their fingers. It is admirable that Lars fights to keep OTHER people (i.e. their label) from having control over what the band produces. It is shameful that he then tries to control what the fans do with 'his' music. You should never let anyone tell you what to do/create, and you should never tell anyone else what to do/create. Once something is created, it belongs to all those who hear it, and they can do whatever they want with it, and WILL, regardless of what the law might say. THe law cannot stop the natural order of things. To put it another way: copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property are artifical constructs and have no chance of ever being enforced completely, so why even try? You will just step all over people's natural rights as human beings, and end up pissing everyone off.

"corporate kiss ass faux sincerity dude rock genre"

I love that. As if the purity of anything but his own art collection or investment portfoilio ever mattered to Lars. Look up the history - the guy was born with a silver spoon (foot!) in his mouth, jetting off with his tennis-pro daddy warbucks to Amsterdam at 17 to see King Diamond and so on. He has no earthly idea what things were like in 1982 or 2009 a struggling metal band who didn't/doesn't have a member who was born on 3rd base like Metallica.

Most of the people making comments on this page think they are so smart!!! I'm sure most are underachievers who are jelous that after 25 years METALLICA is still the best! If you worked that hard you would not want to give your work away. Wake up people this is a business not welfare for the people who want free everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, Metallica is not a hypocrit. They were just trying to do the thing on controlling their music. Not by anyone else as it was done by Napster. Its like, you have your own thing you posses and it is not right when other people will use it for their convenience. Would it be ok with you if your wife is being banged by anybody else?

Metallica is not only protecting their music, they are also protecting the people that work with them. With what they earn, Metallica, as a business unit, also helps feed the families that help them do their job.


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