Metallica has finally accepted its place in the universe, attaching its name and menacing logo to Budweiser beer. Once the battle tank for a speed metal army, the band now exists primarily as a rusty old derrick that keeps pumping crude for a fossil fuel conglomerate – Or perhaps more accurately, they are the dinosaur carcass from which the rich guys in the glass tower are siphoning their profits. This Anheuser-Busch promotion seems to indicate the guys in the band understand the reality.
Putting your name on the label of another company’s product is a marketing move, plain and simple. It can in no way be viewed as having value for their music. They are merely building brand awareness – The quintessential corporate move for a group that has been a corporate behemoth for quite some time now. By lending their brand to Budweiser – the brewing equivalent of a Costco membership – it shows they still believe in their fan base as working class. It is a pandering move and frankly kind of insulting but at least they didn’t just put a new label on some crappy mass-produced beer and pretend it was a special brew of their own. No, they said: “here is some cheap beer that lots of people drink anyway, we’re just going to stand in proximity of it and collect some royalty checks.”
And why do that? Because they have mouths to feed, that’s why. Figuratively speaking, they have a large extended “family” to take care of. There’s all the people who make Metallica T-shirts, the team of lawyers filing lawsuits on behalf of the record label, the guys who clean up the parking lot at your local arena and those guys’ parole officers. I mean, there is a complex web of industry that is involved here. And what would happen to all those people if Metallica stopped being relevant? James Hetfield and the boys are taking one for the team with this move. I’m sure they’ll feel like assholes posing for pictures with AB reps while holding “Metalli-cans” but they are doing it to keep a roof over the heads of their dependents. Think of it like your own Dad selling his Camaro to buy a sedan that fits an infant car seat.
I’m sure noted wine aficionado Lars Ulrich must have thrown one of his standard hissy-fits but ultimately realized that the money would benefit the common good. Having roots in socialist Scandinavia he probably understands that as an engine of commerce Metallica has a duty to fulfill for society and while the Budweiser affiliation may cheapen the band artistically, the financial reward for their beneficiaries offsets the damage. It is like the rock n roll version of carbon credits.
Long ago these guys were an underground force of nature, changing the musical landscape with an unflinching attitude and a dedication to rockin-the-fuck-out. It’s been decades since that really applied. Now they are nothing more than a business entity that churns out product. In their defense, this happens to be the case with almost the entirety of popular music. It’s just sadder when it involves musicians that at one point were iconoclastic and functioning outside the mainstream. Metallica helped to create a music revolution, but like many types of revolutions, eventually the rebels became neutered members of the establishment. The music industry demands allegiance to the corporate money parade or you get dropped at the interstate rest area and left for dead. Twenty-five years later the gravy train has picked up quite a few passengers and Metallica is essentially “too big to fail” so they are doing what needs to be done. To all the middle age guys out there driving around actually listening to St. Anger… this Bud’s for you.