Kirk Hammett Admits Metallica Wasted Their Time Fighting Napster
"We didn't make a difference — we did not make a difference," Hammett told Dean Delray on the Let There Be Talk podcast. "It happened, and we couldn't stop it – because it was just bigger than any of us, this trend that happened that fucking sunk the fucking music industry. There was no way that we could stop it. ... What had happened was all of a sudden, it was just more convenient to get music and it was less convenient to pay for it, and there you have it."
Metallica sued after discovering a leaked demo of "I Disappear" was circulating on Napster in 2000. Napster responded by pledging to terminate the accounts of anyone who shared songs without permission. Bandmate Lars Ulrich later delivered a huge printout to their offices that included the usernames of more than 335,000 people who allegedly downloaded unauthorized MP3s using the file-sharing service.
The case was settled out of court, but not before hundreds of thousands of people were banned by Napster – setting off a firestorm of controversy. In the end, however, the way people listened to music had changed forever, and so did the career path for generations of musicians.
"For me, it was kind of a leveling factor," Hammett said. "All of a sudden, all of us were brought back to the minstrel age now where musicians' only source of income is actually playing. And it's like that nowadays — except that a lot of these bands aren't really playing. They're pressing 'play' or something. But there are a lot of bands who actually fucking play their instruments and have to play to still be a band and still fucking survive."
Metallica eventually joined the digital revolution, releasing all of their music – including albums, singles, remixes, live material and collaborations – to Spotify in December 2012. Still, Hammett remains hopeful the tides might someday turn.
"Maybe things might change," he added. "Maybe all of a sudden people will just start to prefer CDs or whatever format as to what's available now. Who's to say? I mean, it changed all so quickly back then. It could fucking change just as quickly now."
30 Battering Metallica 'Master of Puppets' Facts
Inside the Infamous '92 Guns N' Roses & Metallica Tour