In the seven years since Metallica released Death Magnetic, we’ve gotten one new song from them, last year’s “The Lords of Summer.” In between, the band’s done a lot of talking about heading to the studio, finishing the album, writing new tunes, and so on, despite some saying the band has lost more money than they’ve made recently. However, an article on Metal Hammer states the obvious: Metallica are in no rush to complete their new album because they don’t have to. Metallica are doing just fine by doing what they’re doing, which is touring and selling copies of their catalog.
Let’s start with touring. The Death Magnetic tour grossed $217 million. Since then, Metallica has been playing festivals that are paying top dollar for them. Lollapalooza, Heavy MTL, Glastonbury and so on are smart to book them, since they’re only playing a handful of shows per year, and it’s a guaranteed ticket-seller. And as one of the top touring acts, they’re staying in demand despite – or perhaps because – they don’t have a new album to support. And once they do, the money they make off it, even on their own label, will pale in comparison to what they’ve made in the past or can make on tour. From the article:
Metallica’s last two albums, St Anger and Death Magnetic, have sold just over 10m copies globally. Even if they recoup all the studio, marketing, manufacturing and distribution costs, it’s unlikely they clear more than a few dollars per copy. It’s still a lot better than cleaning windows, but a far cry from the 16m sales in the US alone ofThe Black Album. And spare a thought (and a dime) for Kiss whose last two albums,Monster and Sonic Boom, haven’t even passed 1m global sales between them. At this point you might presume that streaming is the new future for these acts. The diametric opposite is the reality.
Those two aforementioned Kiss albums have, between them, clocked up 10m plays on Spotify. Based on Spotify’s average payment of $0.007 per stream, that works out at a grand total of $70,000 in royalties between all the members (not including the label cut, the publisher’s share, management’s 20%, tax and so on). Metallica have fared somewhat better on streaming services (and they are rumoured to have got equity in Spotify for licensing their music to the service in 2012). Their two most recent albums have, between them, have had just over 45m track plays. Before deductions, that’s $315,000.
Then there’s their catalog. They own it, having bought it back when they formed Blackened Recordings. TheBlack Album and Master of Puppets, their two most popular albums, are still selling about 2,000 copies a week. A lot of buzz bands might sell 2,000 copies of their album in a month, and that’s at their peak. By buying back their masters (MASTERS!), they’re essentially printing money. They could make the follow-up to Death Magnetic. Or they could continue touring and selling copies of their back catalog.
So even if Kirk Hammett is talking about losing riffs on his phone and Robert Trujillo talks about how heavy the new album might be, the7 don’t seem to be in any rush to finish it, nor should they have to, because they know a new album isn’t going to contribute that much to their bottom line. And given the response that St. Anger and Lulu received (not good) against Death Magnetic (not bad), the band might be a little apprehensive about releasing their next album in general.