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10 Terrible Financial Choices in Music History

Stocks in this article: SNE TWX VIA.B ERTS

5. Metallica un-Loads hair, fans, credibility
Time has dimmed just how bright Metallica's star was in 1994. Their self-titled "black" album was on its way to selling 15 million copies, its boxed set Live Expletive : Binge and Purge would sell as many and the band itself just wrapped up an appearance at Woodstock '94 (the Woodstock sequel that didn't end in assaults and fires). They were tightrope walking the line between "awesome" and "iconic," but what happened next dropped them right into the safety net.

As is the case with many bands whose members' egos get too bloated for their leather britches, Metallica decided to take the recipe that gave them all their success and chuck it clear out of the nearest tour bus window. For their follow-up effort, the band decided to release an album of songs lead singer James Hetfield would later admit were experimental, but decidedly average, call it Load (complete with an Andres Serrano album cover made with the artist's own blood and semen) and cut their hair to a gentlemanly length for the promotional photos. The grand result? A staggering 66% drop in sales from the black album -- which would be the case for their symphonic live album S&M and their B-sides compliation Garage Inc. as well -- and a 40% sales slump from Load to its 1997 follow-up ReLoad.

To further twist the fork the band was sticking into its career, it not only filed a lawsuit against peer-to-peer file-sharing network Napster, but culled the names of more than 335,000 Napster users (Metallica fans, mind you) and ratted them out -- asking that they be kicked off off the site.

How did fans respond? By laughing as Metallica members cried about band issues during therapy sessions in the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster and basically ignoring their albums St. Anger and Death Magnetic -- which each sold 2 million copies but were the band's worst-selling of all time and cost them their deal with Time Warner (TWX), which just let Metallica's contract expire.

Metallica's not doing too shabbily, however, teaming up with Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax for a highly anticipated one-off concert later this year. That's great for a metal band that always wanted to be the next Black Sabbath or Motorhead, but not so much for a band that could have been the next Led Zeppelin.

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