Lars Ulrich, the combustible drummer of heavy-metal band Metallica and long-time critic of file sharing, has apparently changed some of his views towards the Internet and digital music.
In an interview with Rolling Stone last week, Ulrich said he and his bandmates have only one more album to make under contract to Warner Music Group.
What are their plans for the future?
"We want to be as free (as) players as possible," Ulrich told Rolling Stone during the band's Northern California appearance for Record Store Day. "We've been observing Radiohead and Trent Reznor and in 27 years or however long it takes for the next record, we'll be looking forward to everything in terms of possibilities with the Internet."
No, he's not endorsing peer-to-peer sites, but there's no mistaking what Ulrich meant. The group is considering whether to follow the lead of Radiohead and Reznor, leader of the band Nine Inch Nails. Those acts sent shock waves throughout the music industry over the past six months by distributing albums over the Web without the aid of a record company. They also offered digital versions of the albums for free.
Ulrich is the guy who showed up at the headquarters of file-sharing site Napster in May 2000 clutching the names of more than 300,000 people the band accused of illegally downloading its music. He demanded Napster stop them.
Ulrich and the band became symbols of the music industry's antipiracy efforts. His statements underscore just how much the music industry has begun to accept that digital music (increasingly made available for free) is now an integral part of the business.
Asked by Rolling Stone whether his stance has changed in the past eight years Ulrich responded: "We have FLACs and MP3s for sale. It was never about downloading per se. We have the Vault where you can download shows from twenty years ago for free, full-on and it's been there for years...
"Back in the day there was a much bigger question about on whose terms?" Ulrich continued. "We said, 'Wait a minute, it should be about the artist.' Then all hell broke loose and we sat on the sidelines for a while."