With little fanfare, Metallica ended their long holdout and made their catalog available on iTunes Tuesday.
In a message on their Web site, the band announced in a post titled “From the ‘It’s about f—ing time!’ file” that it will offer its entire catalog — including, for the first time, individual songs for download — on iTunes after years of holding out alongside the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead.
“Over the last year or so, we have seen an ever-growing number of Metallica fans using online sites like iTunes to get their music,” the band wrote. “So, in continuing with the tradition of offering our albums for sale online (which we’ve been doing for a few years through various sites), as well as making our live concerts available for download in their entirety (through the livemetallica.com site), we are now offering fans the opportunity to obtain our songs individually.”
As of Tuesday, the iTunes store began offering the band’s entire back catalog of 10 albums for sale, from their 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All, to 2004′s Some Kind of Monster EP. Previously unreleased live tracks have been added to the first four albums as iTunes bonuses.
Kill ‘Em All features live versions of “The Four Horsemen” and “Whiplash” while 1984′s Ride the Lightning adds versions of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Creeping Death.” Master of Puppets comes with live takes of “Battery” and “The Thing That Should Not Be,” while 1988′s … And Justice for All has versions of “One” and the album’s title track. “Since many fans already have our albums in one form or another, but might still want to check out the digital versions, we decided to throw a couple of previously unreleased live tracks (Seattle, ’89) onto each of the first four albums,” the band wrote on its Web site. “We chose these four because, unlike the more recent releases, we were only capable of writing 8-9 songs for each of these albums!”
Clean versions of 2003′s St. Anger, the Monster EP and 1998′s Garage, Inc. compilation are also available.
Unlike the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who participated in a big promotional splash earlier this year when their catalog was finally added to iTunes, Metallica are apparently soft-pedaling the move.
Metallica waged a high-profile battle with Napster in 2000, with drummer Lars Ulrich angering many fans of the illegal downloading site — which was eventually shut down and relaunched in 2004 as a legal download destination — by slamming its users (see “Metallica Sets Legal Sights On Napster” ). In the process, the band became the face of the music industry’s opposition to digital file trading and downloading by suing Napster. At the time, in a dramatic flourish, Ulrich delivered the names of tens of thousands of Napster users to a Redwood City, California, county courthouse in a move that had many of the band’s fans crying foul.
Metallica refused to let their songs be offered for individual download when the iTunes store launched in 2003, explaining through their management that they would rather not “contribute to the demise of the album format.” The band’s full albums have been available for download from other legitimate services (Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music) for some time, but this marks the first time that the albums and individual songs have been offered for purchase on iTunes, which has more than 70 percent of the digital music market.
On Wednesday morning (July 26), individual Metallica songs were listed as available on other downloading sites, including Yahoo! Music, mp3.com and (ironically) Napster, although it was unclear how long they have been available.
Metallica noted in their Web post that, while their music will be available on the iTunes stores in the U.S. and Canada, it will not be sold on iTunes overseas, “due to the fact that our record company overseas doesn’t seem to want to play ball with us on this at the moment.”
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