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Metallica isn’t the first band that one thinks of when it comes to giving the fans what they want—remember these guys openly objected to Napster—but on a recent earnings call, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek divulged some interesting information about how the heavy metal legends use the streaming music service to their advantage.
Speaking to Quartz, Ek said that Metallica creates a setlist based on its most-popular songs in specific towns.
“You have an artist like Metallica, who changes their setlist on a city-by-city basis just by looking at Spotify data to see, which the most popular songs happened to be in that city,” Ek said. “We’ve never before been at a place in time where you could make as many informed decisions and understand your audience as well as we can do now as an artist.”
Letting fans have a say isn’t the worst idea, especially for a band such as Metallica with an extensive catalog of songs. Some apps allow fans to request songs for upcoming shows and some groups will even let the fans create a setlist for a specific night.
But fans have different expectations when it comes to concerts, especially since the average cost of a concert ticket is higher than ever. Hardcore fans want to hear the rarities while casual fans are only in attendance to hear the hits. Making the list from Spotify data would seem to favor the latter because people gravitate toward what they see and what’s popular. That’s why Spotify’s most-listened-to songs every year tend to mirror the radio. The only song in Metallica’s top listens that doesn’t appear in regular setlists is “Whisky In the Jar,” a boring Load/Re-Load-era cover.
Mining Spotify for data hasn’t been confirmed or denied by Metallica as a part of the setlist creation process. The website Louder did uncover an old interview in which the band’s drummer and co-founder, Lars Ulrich, explains his setlist creation process. It’s informed by the data:
“I’ll sit and look at the last couple of times we played – whatever city we’re in, I’ll look at the last 10 years worth of shows from that particular city. Obviously, there are certain songs we ‘have’ to play, but then there are the deeper cuts – and the deeper cuts I always try to vary. I try to vary six or eight of the deeper songs so you give fans a different setlist and a different experience.”
It seems like the band that once rallied against free music online is now using a partially free streaming service to shape its shows. But hey, Metallica also joined Napster, so anything is possible.
H/T Quartz Media
Chris Illuminati is an author and reporter whose work for the Daily Dot focuses on meme culture. His work has been published in Rolling Stone, FanSided, BroBible, Penthouse, and AskMen.