Metallica’s first full album in eight years launched on Friday. As with most modern albums, it went on sale on a variety of digital storefronts. One of those sellers was more noteworthy than the others, of course, as the album launch coincided with Metallica’s first-ever warm, hugging embrace of Napster.
Earlier this week, the band and company announced that Metallica’s entire catalog would finally launch on the Napster service on Friday. The $10/month music service currently resembles all-you-can-stream subscription services like Spotify and Google Play Music, and Napster’s fee now includes every published song by Hetfield and Co., from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All to this week’s Hardwired… To Self-Destruct.
Of course, the Napster of today is different than the Napster that drummer Lars Ulrich lashed out against in 1999. What was once a totally free, peer-to-peer service for the trading of MP3s has since been shuffled from corporate handler to corporate handler. After its transformation to an iTunes-styled MP3 store, Napster was taken over by Best Buy in 2008 before being dealt to Rhapsody three years later.
That means, for all intents and purposes, that Metallica is actually coming to Rhapsody for its first time ever, as well. Earlier this year, Rhapsody changed its public-facing name and logo to Shawn Fanning’s classic cat-ear design, and visits to rhapsody.com automatically redirect to a Napster URL.
MP3-sharing historians, of course, will remind you that Metallica’s prime inspiration for facing off against Napster was the sharing of a leaked, unfinished song. The Napster of today won’t let you buy, download, or stream the offending demo version of “I Disappear,” which eventually appeared on the Mission: Impossible II film soundtrack in the year 2000. While Metallica’s lawsuit against Napster included a list of over 300,000 offending downloaders and an order to ban those users from accessing Napster, the band never went so far as to sue individual downloaders. Metallica has since backed away from criticizing the public sharing of its songs, legally or otherwise.
These days, Metallica fans can easily purchase full albums directly from Metallica’s own record label, Blackened Recordings, which includes all of their studio recordings and over 400 soundboard concert recordings in formats ranging from 320Kbps MP3s to 24-bit, 48KHz FLAC and ALAC files.
(As a personal aside: the new album absolutely rips in a pop-metal kind of way. I’ve listened to it about 12 times this week and continue to be surprised by its quality and return to Black Album form, even in spite of drummer Lars Ulrich sweetening his kick drums’ sounds in obnoxious ways. If you still don’t want to give the band money, you can at least enjoy most of the album’s best songs on the band’s YouTube channel.)