Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Byrds' Roger McGuinn Tried to Sway Metallica on Downloads

Spinner Canada is reporting that Metallica might not have faced a well-publicized fan backlash had the band listened to former Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn. When Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich was set to testify before Congress against file sharing back in 2000, McGuinn tells Spinner that he tried to convince Ulrich that downloads were the future.

"I talked to Lars, but he didn't seem to get it," says McGuinn, who presented Congress with counter testimony immediately after Metallica. "He was still firmly on the side of the record companies, thinking that people were ripping him off. My attitude was like, 'Hey -- it's the new radio.' You guys ought to be glad when people exploit your stuff and get it around because that means they're going to come to your concerts and buy your merchandise, and you'll make a lot more money that way."

Though 58 at the time -- and a product of the '60s -- McGuinn was ahead of the curve on downloads. Five years earlier, he had launched the Folk Den, a site where he offered free music. To this day, McGuinn still records one traditional folk song a month and offers it there as a free download.

If it seems odd that a 67-year-old would support new technology so much, consider that McGuinn has always been a pioneer. He is responsible the "jingle-jangle" guitar sound and his old band, the Byrds, are credited with kick-starting both psychedelic and country rock. Yet, his stance on downloads had more to do with record labels than technology.

"I'd say 90 percent of artists on record labels don't get money from record companies," says McGuinn, who once worked as a songwriter for $35 a week. "They get it from performances and other things."

McGuinn is disappointed that record labels have more recently gone after YouTube for copyright infringement.

"It's a new radio. It's a new MTV. It's a new media," he says, noting that YouTube provides valuable exposure for music. "To put it down is to shoot yourself in the foot."

While has always supported using technology to advance music, the man who gave us 'Eight Miles High,' 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' and 'Mr. Spaceman' doesn't see any musical value in the 'Rock Band' video games.

"'Rock Band' is not musicianship," he says. "'Rock Band' is hand-eye coordination ... it might be good for timing for a drummer or something, but you're not playing music with that."

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