Metallica – I Disappear

Music from and Inspired by Mission: Impossible II
Year :
Iron Maiden / Pantera / Danzig

I do not like Metallica the way that most Metallica fans like Metallica. I know this because Metallica fans regularly make this clear to me whenever I talk about Metallica. This doesn’t bother me, I’m sure I’ve made the same kind of point to other people who didn’t share my tastes (what do you mean, ‘Wayne Coyne is annoying’?!), and it doesn’t even bother me that this is a message I have to decipher through profanities and rage-induced stuttering. The issue is greater than Metallica. It has to do with the fact that I like rock more than I like metal, and as such, I like Load-era Metallica more than the first three (still very good) Metallica albums.

Feel free to ridicule me and/or stop paying attention to me now. You won’t be the first.

Anyone still there? Good.

“I Disappear” is the last song from the era I’m talking about. It’s the last song to feature bass player Jason Newsted, and the last released recording of the band before Lars decided to start adding pots and pans to his drum kit. It’s also the song that got me kicked off of Napster.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know the story of Metallica and Napster, and how poorly the band was viewed at the time for their actions, and how most people eventually came to see that they were right. Napster was illegal, downloading songs was stealing, and Napster was shut down. It probably should have ended there, but it didn’t. New file-sharing software or websites followed. Some lived, some didn’t. But, the music was always available.

The biggest (“problem” if you are on one side, “wave of the future” if you are on the other) talking point now is that music streaming has become legal. Pandora and other internet radio sites allow users to create their own stations and curate them according to their tastes, though not their specific song choices. Spotify does them one better, giving every user access to essentially the world’s largest virtual iTunes account. Most of these services are free while offering a paid “premium” package that allows for more control or accessibility.

Again, all things you probably already know, or have read somewhere else, or read about here. I’m bringing it up again because of a recent article David Byrne wrote for The Guardian. In it, Byrne talks about the future of music in a landscape dominated by streaming services and the small payouts they give artists, a future he sees forcing many musicians into second jobs or out of music entirely. He’s not the first to criticize the practices of these companies, but what he has to say comes off less like the (justifiable) sour grapes of a Thom Yorke or David Lowery, and more as someone who is questioning the direction we are headed in while admitting to not have the answers.

I use Spotify. Friends and I will use it to share music with each other. I use it to listen to songs I need to learn for the cover bands I play in or to hear new records I’m curious about but don’t want to commit to buying. Or even just as a media player for my personal library stored on my laptop (Spotify without the guilt!). I just don’t know that I can keep doing it. I stopped using Pandora quite a while ago when their motives were made clear. I wanted to believe Spotify was different. Even if they aren’t, Byrne and others admit there is the potential for benefit with these types of services, creating exposure for bands starting out and looking to build an audience. Once that audience is gained, however, the issue of revenue distribution remains, and it’s unlikely to be resolved easily or quickly.

That’s not to say its impossible. Maybe Spotify, a company that has claimed to support the musicians who fill it’s library, will come up with a way to give more of the pie to those artists. Maybe a new streaming service comes along that splits that pie differently in the first place. It seems unlikely that “free” music is going away anytime soon, so some sort of solution is needed to prevent types of scenarios Byrne is talking about.

The answers may not be there yet, and I certainly don’t have them. We live in confusing times. How else could James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich be over a decade ahead of David Byrne?

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Matthew Belair (@14Belair42) grew up on the classic rock of his parents and the 90s alt-rock of his older sister before discovering other genres to love, all of which are cool, hip, and in no way embarrassing to admit publicly.

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