METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich spoke to Billboard.com about how far the digital music industry has come since 2000 when the band launched legal action against Napster, claiming that the pioneering music file-sharing service was illegally allowing users to download METALLICA tracks without paying royalties to the group. Although the case was settled out of court, 300,000 users were banned from Napster as a result and METALLICA's image took a tremendous beating in the eyes of music fans.
Ulrich, who was the main spokesperson for METALLICA in the Napster battle, has since become friends with Napster co-founder and current Spotify investor Sean Parker and even attended Parker's wedding.
Asked how he approaches the digital-music landscape in 2015 and whether he feels the need to choose sides between Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music, Ulrich told Billboard.com: "You don't want to necessarily say yes to everything that comes your way. Obviously, in the case of Apple, they're a bigger brand or company than anybody and they have some very smart people running it. So we'd call [Apple Music] a no-brainer. Personally, I have 37 Apple products and that's just me not counting the rest of my family, so that's a fairly easy one for me."
He continued: "We've been in a relationship with Daniel Ek and Spotify for a few years, which has been very rewarding. He's a smart guy and getting our music out, we try to align ourselves with the people who are smartest. You can tell a lot about the companies by the people who run them. With Daniel, he's very passionate about music so you feel safe with him. Same with Eddy Cue and the people who run the music over at Apple; they're very passionate about artists and music and so on, so you feel like there's safe relationships to be in. Some of the other companies you maybe deal with a little more cautiously."
Ulrich added: "We try to put ourselves somewhere in the middle. We're not necessarily the tip of the arrow coming in first, at the same time we don't like to be too difficult and demanding. We flow in with the waves as they reach the shore."
Lars admitted a few years back that he wished he had dealt with the Napster situation differently. In a 2003 interview with Launch, he said about METALLICA's battle with Napster, "Most of the time, it's like a bad dream, like what the fuck was that? [Several] years later, it's like did that really happen? We went from being somewhat well-respected, well-liked, and then I woke up one day and all of a sudden I was the most hated man in rock 'n' roll. It was like, huh? Me? What did I do wrong? I'm one of the good guys. That was all kind of weird.
"I'm proud of the stance we took. It was a very tough time. It was a much tougher time, because in the middle of that you have to put your best game face on. It was difficult. A lot of that shit hurt and it was very bewildering because it was difficult to connect it to your own reality. For better or worse, it got a good debate started."
In December 2012, METALLICA made all nine of its studio albums, as well as various live material, singles, remixes and collaborations, available on Spotify.
METALLICA is now able to make these deals directly since, as of 2012, the band has complete control over the master tapes of all its audio and video recordings. The band has also launched its own label, Blackened Recordings.