In a new interview with “theFIVE10” podcast, MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson was asked how he stays relevant when the music industry changes so frequently. He responded (hear audio below): “I think you just roll with the punches. I remember when the whole Napster thing was going on, and Lars [Ulrich], in particular, of METALLICA was fighting the good fight, and they were absolutely right. And I remember our manager saying, ‘Oh, don’t jump into that controversy. You’ve gotta be careful.’ And I said, ‘Fuck that. They’re wrong. They’re stealing our music. They are wrong, and Lars is right.’ Unfortunately, it was an unwinnable battle. It’s like looting — somebody just opened the front door of Walmart, and everybody ran in and stole everything. So even they [METALLICA] had to just sort of back off and let it take its course.
“Thank God for our pal Steve Jobs who, in my opinion, saved the music business,” he continued. “Even though it was self-serving ’cause he wanted to sell iPods — ‘Hey, I’ve got a device. How do I get the music on there?’ — but Steve, to his credit, in his time away from Apple, he had made friends with [David] Geffen and [Jeffrey] Katzenberg and all these guys down in Hollywood, and he understood Hollywood. He understood the film business, the music business, so with him being a computer guy, he rallied it together.
“I still buy everything on iTunes,” Ellefson added. “I subscribe to Apple [Music] radio. I don’t subscribe to Spotify. I don’t give them my money, since they don’t give me very much of my money. But Apple pays well, so thank you, Apple. And I buy all their products, and I own their stock. So I’m an Apple guy, through and through.”
Asked what he thinks the next platform or medium will be for getting music out to the masses, David said: “Well, look, who knows? I mean, all I know is we live one day at a time… So, the future — who knows? I mean, China sneezes on us, and now we’re doing Zoom meetings. Who knows? So to predict the future… Again, I think you just kind of take it one day at a time. I think the biggest thing about it is just be resilient. People ask, ‘Do you have any advice for musicians?’ And it’s just learn to play along, learn to play nice, learn to play nice with your bandmates and the world around you, because things change quickly. Someone who was playing behind you last year is now the headliner over you this year, and that’s how it goes. So, be resilient.”
Two and a half years ago, Ellefson lamented Spotify‘s meager artist payouts, telling Graspop Metal Meeting: “As great as the digital streaming is as a promotional thing, it’s extremely unfair to us. They’ve built entire massive fortunes on the backs of our music that we don’t get paid for. And that, fortunately, is gonna change… Now, as far as the fans, the user? My daughter, my kids, I don’t think they hardly bought any music — they always get everything… My daughter, for sure, gets things off Spotify, so I pay attention. And certainly YouTube and all that stuff, so, of course, it’s important. Because if we’re not on our drums and guitars, we’re probably on our phones. So it’s important that we pay attention to it, because our fans are a part of it. So if we wanna connect to our fans, we need to be there.
“Thank goodness, again, like I said, the middle is getting connected better as far as the fairness of the royalty and everything, which, of course, makes us feel better, because we feel like we’re being compensated for a lot of hard work,” he added. “And somebody had to pay to make those records, so it’s nice that everybody now starts to get a fair take on that.”
METALLICA sued Napster after the band discovered that a leaked demo version of its song “I Disappear” was circulating on the pioneering music file-sharing service before it was released.
In May 2000, Ulrich famously delivered a literal truckload of paper to Napster Inc., listing hundreds of thousands of people who allegedly used the company’s software to share unauthorized MP3s of METALLICA‘s songs.
METALLICA representatives compiled the more than 60,000-page list of 335,435 Napster user IDs over one weekend in response to Napster’s promise to terminate the accounts of users who trade material without permission. Real names were not included in the list.
In later years, METALLICA embraced digital music: in December 2012, the band made all of its studio albums, as well as various live material, singles, remixes and collaborations, available on Spotify.
Ellefson‘s namesake band will release its covers album, “No Cover”, on November 20 via earMUSIC (Europe) and Ward Records (Japan). The effort will be made available in conjunction with Ellefson‘s revived Combat Records, which will issue the album in North America via Amped.