Spotify’s CEO Reveals Metallica Chooses Setlists According To Local Song Stats

Lars Ulrich of Metallica, by Victoria Anderson

In the Spotify earnings call today, CEO Daniel Ek said Metallica looks at what audiences are listening to on the music-streaming service in the city it’s playing in, and changes the setlist to based on the data. For years and years, Lars Ulrich has made the set list night after night, tour after tour. Read the excerpt from a report by industry website Quartz.

Ek commented:

“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. 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.”

In a 2015 interview with Billboard, Lars said: “We’ve been in a relationship with Daniel Ek and Spotify for a few years, which has been very rewarding. He’s a smart guy and getting our music out, we try to align ourselves with the people who are smartest. You can tell a lot about the companies by the people who run them. With Daniel, he’s very passionate about music so you feel safe with him.”

In a 2017 interview with the 98 Rock radio station, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich spoke about how he creates setlists for the band’s shows. He explained: I’ll sit and look at last couple times we played [in the area] — whatever city we’re in, I’ll look at the last 10 years worth of shows from that particular city. Obviously, there’s certain songs we ‘have’ to play, but then there’s the deeper cuts — and the deeper cuts I always try to vary. So if we played ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’ the last time, maybe I’ll put ‘Through The Never’ or ‘Breadfan’ or whatever. I try to vary six or eight of the deeper songs so you give fans a different setlist and a different experience. Since I started doing that, it correlates with when we started taping all our shows and we offer them for sale on something called, mixed by the same team that mixes our albums. Since we started doing that in ’03 or ’04, we haven’t played the same setlist twice.”

Ulrich added that it’s “not just for the fans, but it’s also for us — it keeps us on our toes.” He said: “[Back in the day], we were out doing the same setlist for weeks at a time, and I was telling the lighting director, ‘I’m gonna change a couple songs in the setlist tonight.’ And I remember he said, ‘Give me a 3-day notice so I can program the lighting rig.’ It was one of those moments where I was, like, ‘Wait a minute! That’s what it’s come to? If we want to play a different song in the setlist, we have to give the lighting guy a three-days notice so he can change the green lights to purple lights? That’s not rock ‘n’ roll.’ If I want to play ‘Sanitarium’, I don’t want to have to hire an electrician. [Laughs] It was one of those moments: ‘Holy fuck, I don’t want to be that kind of band.'”