In most cases, the frontman steps in and represents the band. Some handle things democratically, but the frontman is often the band leader. This isn’t a written rule, but it explains how it mainly works. In one of his statements, Dave Mustaine argued he was the real alpha male, but almost every Metallica fan, including the former bassist Ron McGovney, opposed this idea.
James Hetfield formed Metallica along with Lars Ulrich, and they are the only remaining original members of the band. As of now, Ulrich has songwriting credits on almost all Metallica songs in the band’s catalog. Unlike the drummer, Hetfield is often seen in the front, being the spokesperson and representing Metallica. As it turns out, something changed this dynamic once, and Lars Ulrich is pretty regretful about it.
Lars Ulrich Was Regretful About Being Metallica’s Spokesperson
In 2000, Metallica filed a lawsuit against Napster, an audio streaming service that allows peer-to-peer file sharing in MP3 format. Napster was highly popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with millions of monthly users and a tremendous amount of income resulting from file transfers. So, it’s safe to say that the platform was making something that wasn’t in favor of album sales.
According to Metallica, Napster allowed unauthorized use of their musical material and was responsible for racketeering and copyright infringement. As a result, they legally demanded around $10 million in damages and asked the platform to prevent users from sharing their songs. James Hetfield’s wife, Francesca, gave birth to Castor Virgil Hetfield at that time. So, Hetfield decided family was the priority and left the matters in Lars Ulrich’s hands.
Ulrich read testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the legal battle between Napster and Metallica began. In the end, Napster lost the case, banned around 300,000 users, and deleted the Metallica songs from their database, including the then-unreleased song ‘I Disappear.’ Although Metallica had the right to do this, many stood by Napster’s side and accused Metallica of preventing people from listening to music.
“I felt ambushed by the whole thing because I didn’t know enough about what we were getting ourselves into when we jumped,” said Lars Ulrich when asked if he had regrets for handling the Napster issue. “We didn’t know enough about the kind of grassroots thing and what had been going on the last couple of months in the country as this whole new phenomenon was happening.”
“We were just so stuck in our controlling ways of wanting to control everything that had to do with Metallica,” Ulrich continued. “So we were caught off guard, and we had a bit of a rougher landing on that one than other times when we just blindly leaped. But you know, I’m still proud that we did leap. I took a lot of hits, and it was difficult.”
So, handling the legal battle between Napster and Metallica and being the vocal opponent in the case put a heavy weight on Lars Ulrich’s shoulders. Although he regretted stepping in and being the spokesperson, it seems Ulrich is still proud he handled this duty and came out as the winner of the case.