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Thoughts on the New Metallica Album, Leaks, Downloads, Fan Reactions and Why Record Labels Should Take Notice
As some of you may be aware, it's been exciting times in the world of rock recently. Rumors are flying left and right and there's been plenty of controversy as well, what with certain political parties deciding to use some "unlicensed" music as part of their campaign. Amongst all of that though, there was an album, first leaked and now released from a little metal band called Metallica. Death Magnetic is the name of the new album and Metallica fans have been clamoring to hear the new music, especially after it was unfortunately leaked shortly before the release date.
So far from what I've read, reactions have been quite positive, ranging from it being one of their better albums, to one of their best since the early days. Personally, I'm really digging the new stuff as it does seem to capture a bit of the energy and complexity that makes their work so powerful, but opinions will vary. I'm going to keep my own critique of the album to a minimum today, as although I think Metallica is an amazing band and I'm a fan of their stuff all the way back to the beginning, I'm not a huge fan (by comparison to some) and don't consider myself all that qualified to do a real review at this time.
Besides, the album itself is only part of what I've found interesting about this release and not really what I wanted to discuss today. Instead, I thought I'd discuss a bit about the album being leaked, downloads and the fan's subsequent reactions, because I noticed an interesting phenomena, or... well... maybe a little evidence of a phenomena that I've been talking about for a while.
So this new Metallica album was leaked early... and as is expected in the age of piracy, it ended up available for download on the Internet almost immediately... and is also expected, resulted in a large number of fans downloading the album to get that early first glimpse of the new material. Leaked albums are always unfortunate for the artists involved, but what surprised me most about this particular leak was the responses to it I read online at a few other music/guitar/rock and roll related sites/forums.
There seemed to be a lot of people saying. "Yeah I totally downloaded the leak and thought it was awesome/good/interesting/great/amazing... I'm totally going to buy it when it comes out"... hmm, that's interesting... People have the entire album downloaded, but are still going to buy it... strange... that goes completely against everything the record labels have told us about downloading, namely that it leads to less albums sales... not the same or even more people buying it.
Ok, I'll admit that this might be an isolated case because of the extreme dedication of Metallica fans to their band, or something about this particular album (maybe the leak wasn't complete?)... who knows, maybe it was a fluke that only people who were commenting were the ones who also buy albums, I don't know. The point is though that this is some very interesting evidence that I'm not the only one who still buys albums even if I download them, and might even buy more because I download them first.
I've been saying for a while now that I actually bought my most albums per year, when downloading was at it's highest. Some of my favorite bands I first pirated and then liked so much that I immediately went out to buy all their albums (that may or may not happen to this day even...). It's nice to be able to have a listen to it before you buy, and even better to have it downloaded and available to take anywhere. I like listening to previews and even entire tracks online as well, but often times bands take a long time to grow on me, especially if it's a band I might have dismissed earlier for some unfounded reason (it's been known to happen... often in fact). If I have it downloaded though I can listen to it repeatedly until I've really made up my mind about it. The albums that I end up loving, I never would have bought them otherwise... and the albums I eventually get rid of, well I never would have even had a chance of buying those works. Seems like I'm left with a net gain in the number of albums I buy because I download them first.
This is not a new idea for me, and certainly not the first time I've mentioned it, but if the comments from the Internet are anything to go by, I'm not the only one who this is true for, which is kinda cool. Again, maybe it's a fluke, or a special scenario, but it's definitely something I think those last few major record labels who are moaning about illegal downloading cutting into their profits should take notice of.
I also think it's worthwhile to point out that I think the album itself has a lot to do with whether people will still buy an album they've downloaded or not. An incredibly good album is far more likely to get downloaded and then bought than a mediocre one. I know this is true with my own music collection as the albums that I downloaded that struck me the most, were the first to be physically added to my collection. Maybe that's the key in fact. This new Metallica album sounds pretty awesome, so lots of people who downloaded it are still going to buy it... the last quasi-pop-rock-bland-clichÃ©-whatever album that some major labels were trying to push... that album was awful, so people downloaded it for the single, promptly found out it was awful or maybe just mediocre, and didn't feel compelled to go out and buy it.
That's it! GENIUS!... if those major labels actually promoted good music (like this new album)... then the problem of downloading is solved because many fans will be compelled to still go out and support the band by picking up a copy and the bands/labels won't lose their money. Seems like all that marketing research that labels put in to craft music specifically to sell... the marketing research that in many ways lead to modern music becoming bland, boring and not worth listening to... that's also what has led people to download albums over buying them... the music just isn't worth buying... BRILLIANT!
Anyways, genius moments aside, these are just a few thoughts I considered was worth mentioning, or ranting about. Oh and the fact that as I said, I'm really digging this new music from Metallica and you should definitely check it out if you're at all a fan and haven't already (who knows why you wouldn't have)
You can even take a listen to almost the whole album on the band's official site (www.metallica.com), as well as find videos on Youtube etc. Check it out, and maybe... if you're not feeling like keeping it legal... download it... although of course, I'm not advocating that, but hey, if you still buy it, and I'm betting you might, then it wouldn't be all that bad.