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Metallica has regained its catalog from Warner Music Group and launched its own label, Blackened Recordings.
Metallica has long wanted control of its master recordings. In 1994, the heavy metal group sued WMG’s Elektra Entertainment, its home since 1984, under California’s “seven-year statute.” The statute, used primarily for actors, was invoked by a number of artists in the mid-‘90s seeking to get out of their music contracts. All of the cases settled and the law remained untested as to if it pertains to music acts as well.
In that 1994 settlement, Metallica received one of its main goals: to restructure its deal to form a joint venture with the label for future music and video releases. It would now also appear that the deal included the reversion of Metallica’s masters to the band. In 2004, Metallica switched from Elektra (which was folded into Atlantic) to WMG sister label, Warner Bros.
The first release through Blackened Recordings will come in less than two weeks, when the band puts out the live concert DVD/Blu-Ray “Quebec Magnetic.”
“You may have heard us say it once or twice or a thousand times before, but it’s always been about us taking control of all things ‘Tallica to give you 110% on every single level every single time,” posted the band in a statement on its website. “Forming Blackened Recordings is the ultimate in independence, putting us in the driver’s seat of our own creative destiny. We’re looking forward to making more music and getting it all out to you in our own unique way.”
Metallica, who started its own music festival, Orion, this year, is the perfect act to proceed on its own. Other than advance money, there’s not a lot that a major label could offer the band now that it can’t provide on its own and given its years of success, Metallica probably has all the money it needs to front its own projects. Plus, while the band still receives radio play, it doesn’t need the mighty machinery of a major label promotion team behind it: the group can hire indie promoters next time it has a song to push to radio.
Regaining control of its masters also allows the band to repackage the music in any way it sees fit to present to its loyal fans. We’ve already seen more and more veteran acts who have build up their own following not resign with major labels and expect more in the future.