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CMU Beef Of The Week #289: Metallica v Not Metallica

By | Published on Friday 15 January 2016


So you want to pay tribute to the world’s most successful metal band? Well you MetalliCAN’T. Actually, you Metallican, but that’s not quite so punchy an intro, is it?

You might think most people would like to be tributed. But assume nothing. Not every tribute passes without controversy. As Metallica tribute band Sandman found out this week, when they were handed a cease and desist letter ordering them to stop using Metallica’s name to promote shows where all they do is play covers of Metallica songs.

The Canadian tribute band – who bill themselves as “Canada’s Number One Tribute To Metallica” and use a logo based on Metallica’s own – showed up to a gig this week and had a 41 page letter thrust under their noses.

“We are writing to kindly request that Sandman stop using the name Metallica [or] the phonetic equivalent of Metallica to identify or promote live musical performances through Facebook and YouTube pages”, it cheerily began.

See? They’d really thought ahead. Sandman were even blocked from making YouTube videos announcing their upcoming shows as a Metal Licker tribute act. People get paid to pre-empt that sort of thing. That’s an actual job.

You can see how this might be a problem, I’m sure. It’s going to be hard to convince people to come and see your act if you can’t tell them what your act does. And some people might show up to shows and be confused as to why you’re only playing Metallica songs.

“Why didn’t you say you were a Metallica tribute act?” people might ask you afterwards.
“We are not allowed to”, you’d reply glumly. “We were hoping it might be fun for people to guess”.

The tribute act industry is a long established one, of course, generally left to its own devices. So what the hell were Metallica thinking? Are they worried that people might get confused and think the actual Metallica are playing in a bar down the street? Or were they just annoyed that some people were earning upwards of very little money playing their songs?

They are not questions you need concern yourself with, however, because this beef is not actually between Metallica and Sandman at all. It is between Metallica and their own lawyers.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Metallica blamed “a very overzealous attorney” for the incident and denied any knowledge of the letter prior to it appearing online.

“We hear that a Canadian Metallica tribute band is a little upset with us and with a little digging, figured out why”, they said. “It turns out that a certain letter was delivered to the band Sandman that neither we nor our management were aware of until it surfaced online. Lucky for us, the band was kind enough to post it for us to see, and it turns out that we have a very overzealous attorney who sent this letter without our knowledge”.

They continued: “We have a long history of not only enjoying tribute bands, but we started as one. Heck, we even recorded a two-disc album of covers! We will always remember those days and continue to enjoy tribute bands, even inviting them to support us on various tours over the years”.

“Sandman should file the letter in the trash”, they ruled. “Keep doing what you’re doing… we totally support you! And in the meantime, our attorney can be found at [San Francisco International Airport] catching a flight to go permanently ice fishing in Alaska”.

Well that’s nice of them to let the lawyer have a holiday, rather than punishing them in some way.

Sandman guitarist Joe Di Taranto also spoke to Rolling Stone, saying that Lars Ulrich had called him to personally apologise: “He gave me and the band his full blessing to continue on as we were. They want us to continue paying tribute to Metallica with their full blessing and approval. We will continue to fly the Metallica flag, loud and proud!”

Great stuff. See you in court.