Metallica's entire catalog is finally returning to Napster, 17 years after the band filed a famously contentious lawsuit against the former peer-to-peer file-sharing network. The news comes as the metal band is set to release its tenth studio album Hardwired...To Self-Destruct this Friday (Nov. 18).
"The release of Metallica’s new album comes at an incredible time for streaming music with streaming subscriptions accounting for almost half of industry sales in the first half of 2016," Napster said in a statement. "Today, Napster is a legal, paid subscription service with a catalog of over 40 million tracks. We are thrilled to bring Metallica’s full catalog -- including their latest new album -- to Napster subscribers around the world."
Certainly a lot has changed since 2000, when the metal behemoths and the once-notorious Napster were embroiled in a lawsuit at a time when the struggle between copyright and music piracy threatened to tear the music business asunder. For one, music streaming, unlike file sharing, has become an increasingly viable business. As it scales, streaming revenues have increased dramatically to the tune of some $1.6 billion in the first half of 2016, according to the RIAA. Also, the court of public opinion has changed as the pillorying Metallica once received for their principled stance against piracy would likely not happen today.
"We weren’t quite prepared for the shit-storm that we became engulfed in," Metallica's Lars Ulrich told the Huffington Post in 2013 when looking back at the lawsuit. At the time, Metallica were upset over "I Disappear," a song recorded for the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack which, much to the band's dismay, leaked and actually received radio airplay before the final mix was even done. The band soon discovered their entire catalog was up on the P2P network. Metallica has stated they were never financially motivated to file the lawsuit but rather simply wanted more control over their music.
Napster, too, has changed drastically in the ensuing years. The service, which struggled with bankruptcy, was purchased by Rhapsody International from Best Buy in 2011. The company brought in CEO Mike Davis last April to run the streaming service and in June rebranded itself in the U.S. as Napster. The fully-licensed service has a reported 3.5 million paying subscribers. Napster recently announced a partnership with Sprint whereby it gained direct access to the telecom's 60 million customers.
In 2012, Metallica’s master recordings reverted to the band from Warner Music Group. The group now sells its works through its own Blackened Recordings, handled by Metallica’s longtime manager, Cliff Burnstein at Q Prime. Blackened, which will release Hardwired... To Self Destruct, directly negotiated the deal with Napster.
This week Metallica achieved the rare feat of charting three singles from the new album on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart dated Nov. 19 as the songs "Atlas, Rise!" debuted at No. 22 joined previously released tracks "Moth Into Flame" (No. 6) and "Hardwired" (No. 23) on the chart. The last artist to achieve this was actually Metallica itself in 2008.
Recently, the band's self-titled 1991 album -- known as The Black Album -- reached the 16 million sales threshold as it continues its reign as the best-selling release of the Nielsen SoundScan era. Metallica has also sold more than 56 million albums, a number bested by only Garth Brooks and The Beatles.