If you’re a Spotify user (and if you’re not you should be), you might have been surprised to log in last week and find a new band has joined the already awesome streaming service. Now some people reading this might be thinking “So what? Bands join Spotify all the time.” While that’s certainly true, this particular band had a lot to do with trying to destroy what Spotify has become. That band is Metallica.
For those of you too young to remember there was a time before Spotify, before iTunes, when purchasing music meant having to trudge down to the store to buy this plastic thing called a CD. CDs (or even cassettes, but ask your history teacher about cassettes) came in a big plastic case and cost between $15-20. They were really important because if you lost or damaged the CD you’d have to get another one for another 15 bucks. Sure some people could copy CDs onto their computers, but software to do that was expensive. Then along came two college kids with a product called Napster.
Now Napster (while not the first) was the product that brought file sharing to the forefront of our popular culture. You could go online and find music other people had and just copy it onto your computer. Simple and fun. As a young undergrad music student this was like the gold rush of ’49. I would spend hours tying up the phone line in my room (we had this thing called dial up… again the history teacher can help). downloading music. My friends and I attacked it like it was a mission to own every piece of music ever written. I discovered tons of new artists and drastically broadened my musical tastes.
Then the backlash came.
Hundreds of musicians ( and filmmakers) rose up in outrage. People were STEALING their work and not paying for them. Now I’m not going to sit here and write about whether or not I agree with this notion. Stealing is wrong, taking something from someone and not paying them for their work when they are asking money for it is wrong (though let’s be honest here how much money was the artist getting vs. the record company…), so I get their feelings despite knowing full well the record industry gets about 90% of the profit from the sale of a CD. However one band took it one step further. 80s metal icon Metallica had a single leaked on Napster and it ended up getting some radio airplay. This enraged the band (their drummer Lars Ulrich) in particular to the point where they gathered up a list of about 2000 Napster users that were in possession of their music and turned them over to the authorities. This gave rise to the RIAA which is the music industry’s legal arm which is bent on fining people hundreds of thousands of dollars for illegally possessing music.
Metallica at the time were a hugely popular band (and they really still are), however this caused a pretty large backlash amongst their fans. A lot of fans, including me, felt betrayed. I mean Metallica started out by giving out their music. All of us had spent lots of money buying some shirts, concert tickets, and yes some music. Why is it so hurtful that I want to share an awesome band with others. Maybe someone hears a song and suddenly goes out and buys all their CDs? Frankly that’s what I usually did. I’d get one or two (most of the time the quality of the music stunk anyway), then buy the rest. Again this isn’t about debating the philosophical conundrum of file sharing. After all that went down I stopped listening to Metallica. They came off to me as sold out, out of touch, and aloof. Not the gritty metal band I grew up listening to.
And now we come full circle. When Spotify announced Metallica would be bringing their library over, they had a press conference. There sat Lars Ulrich, right next to Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster. Two men pitted against each other in a bitter dispute. Now watching the conference I couldn’t help but notice it was a little awkward like both of them didn’t want to bring up the Napster thing or how one side was accused of theft, and the other of turning on his fans, but I think the awkwardness was more about how much both of them just wanted to move on.
Yet all you see when looking at the comments is rage and hate towards Metallica, and Lars. People still saying how much they hate the band and will never forgive them. Perhaps it’s because I’m older, maybe it’s because I can now see both sides of the coin but I don’t find myself caring any longer. Look, I didn’t like it then, and I still don’t like it but at some point you have to move on with your life. Metallica did, all of the founders of Napster did, the music industry didn’t implode and people are still sharing music.
That got me thinking past this to the actual art of forgiveness. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m a perfect person. I’m petty, I hold grudges, and I bring up stuff from years ago that still make upset. I don’t think I’m alone in that. However, maybe it’s time to start to look at some of the things that have been eating you up inside and just let go. I won’t sit here and pretend it’s easy, but as a person who went through a pretty big act of letting go I can tell you it’s worth it.
The other day I had to meet up with my ex-fiance. I wrote a post a while back if you’re into reading history. We had to meet up because we found a couple of items that were each others so we had to do an exchange. I’ll admit it drudged up some old stuff, but I managed to keep it let go. It’s been a long time, I met someone I’m super excited to be spending the rest of my life with, I’m happy, I’m healthy, who cares if something crappy happened years ago. I don’t know for sure but I think my ex would even agree.
So hey if I can get past that, and Lars and Sean Parker can get past their stuff, can’t you?