Metallica joins Spotify, buries the hatchet with Sean Parker

Metallica's Lars Ulrich tried to sue Napster and Parker more than a decade ago at the onset of file sharing. Today the former adversaries joined in praising Spotify.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read
Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, now can boast that he helped make peace between Sean Parker, the Napster co-founder, and Metallica's Lars Ulrich. The three told the audience at Spotify's press event today that the fight between them was just a misunderstanding. Greg Sandoval/CNET

NEW YORK--Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Sean Parker, one of the founders of file-sharing service Napster, made peace today.

In an unlikely detente, the two men joined Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, on stage during the streaming music service's press event here, more than a decade since their famous feud when Ulrich tried to get Napster shut down. More recently, it turns out that Ulrich and Parker share a love of Spotify and Ulrich announced that Metallica is now offering its catalog on the service.

Besides offering testimonials about how much they enjoy using Spotify, the two shared their experiences of their now famous confrontation when Ulrich declared war on Napster and filed a lawsuit against the pioneering peer-to-peer service.

"Our manager told us that our [unreleased] song was playing on the radio," said Ulrich, 48, recalling the time he first heard about Napster and the sharing of unauthorized music files. "I told him 'Maybe we should go over there and...'." He punched his hand three times with his fist. He said that the band's attitude at the time was "You f--- with us, we'll f--- with you."

When [Parker] and I saw each other a few months ago," Ulrich continued, "We could see that we had been put down as adversaries. We realize we had much more in common and sitting down was long overdue...We were younger, maybe somewhat more ignorant. [Parker and I] sat down and had a heart to heart."

For his part, Parker blamed the youth and "naivete" of Napster's founders as well as the media and the labels for creating a perception that Napster and Metallica were mortal enemies.

Maybe, but it wasn't the media that sued Napster. It was Ulrich and Metallica. It wasn't the big record companies that collected information on 300,000 people sharing songs on Napster and got them kicked off the site. It was Ulrich and Metallica. And it was Parker, John Fanning and Shawn Fanning, the Napster cofounders, who created a service where people could illegally obtain all the songs they wanted free of charge.

But alas, times change. Ulrich has talked about having regrets for his part in the conflict. Ulrich's participation and the signing of Metallica was designed to send a message: Spotify is a potent legal alternative to piracy and therefore a friend of music artists.

By adding Metallica's catalog, built up over 30 years, to its music library, Spotify should get a big boost in credibility with artists. Ulrich and the band have had the reputation since those anti-Napster days of being skeptical of digital services.

Meanwhile, the big criticism from many music artists is that Spotify compensates them poorly. Ek asked for patience. He said the company is trying to build its audience and as its following gets bigger, the more money Spotify and music acts will receive. He said the company has so far paid over $500 million to artists.

Spotify also announced an important benchmark, hitting 1 million paid U.S. subscribers in one year. By contrast, Rhapsody, the grandaddy of Web music subscription services, was in business more than a decade before accumulating that many paying customers.

Worldwide, Spotify now has 5 million paying customers and 20 million users overall, Ek told the audience. In addition to Spotify's paid service, the company offers a free listening experience.