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Metallica Site Rolls Out Game, Free Music

Metallica, the most vocal of the recording artists against Napster, is giving away hours of music to its fans. That's just one in a package of initiatives that include a video game from Vivendi Universal Games, a new album, an international tour and a broadband destination for all things Metallica.

The hard rock band's video game deal grants Vivendi Universal Games exclusive multiyear worldwide rights to what will be a combat action game. Due for release by early 2005, it will be designed with input from Jeff Darrow, the conceptual artist on the "Matrix" trilogy.

According to Luc Vanhal, president and chief operating officer of Vivendi Universal Games, the as-yet-untitled game "has the ideas and the inspiration and the identity of the band behind it."

He said the "St. Anger" CD package will include a teaser clip from the game and that Metallica will be showing a game trailer before each of the group's live performances.

"This is the first partnership of its kind, and I think it shows the way that a video game company and a musical artist can work together," Vanhal said.

Band members will not appear in the game, but their voices will be key elements, and Metallica will also record an exclusive single and video that will be included.

The band's new online presence is scheduled to launch Thursday, the same day its Elektra Records release "St. Anger" becomes available at retail.

The highly anticipated CD, Metallica's first in five years, is being released five days early to address piracy concerns after its contents began appearing illegally on Web sites in several countries.

Metallica Vault ( was created in partnership with the independent Internet service provider Speakeasy. Fans who own "St. Anger" or the future video game will be able to access exclusive content after registering with a unique identifying number found on a package insert.

Metallica has never granted a license to any of the online music services, nor has it made its music available over the Internet through any other method before this.

"We've always wanted our fans to experience our music online," Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said. "But up until now, the existing distribution methods have not passed the kind of quality standards our fans have come to expect from us."

Ulrich handpicked the seven hours of rare and unreleased material that the site will offer initially, which includes 60 live performance selections, though the long-term plan is to include more than 100 hours.

"This is the answer we came up with for getting free music to the band's fans," said Bob Pfeifer of entertainment consulting company Segnana Inc., which worked on the project. "The Napster issue was never about the money. It was only ever about maintaining quality and artistic control."

All of the tracks will be downloadable MP3 files, burnable to disc and completely portable.

Metallica's tour starts June 6 in Nuremberg, Germany. Dubbed the Summer Sanitarium Tour, it will reach the United States on July Fourth and keep Metallica on the road until Aug. 24.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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