Metallica is known for varying their setlists each night, making for a unique experience each time you see them. According to a new report from financial publication Quartz, they choose their nightly song list based on the streaming data from local Spotify users in the area. As Spotify CEO Daniel Ek explained on his company’s earnings call on Thursday,
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.
The apparent data-driven nature of Metallica setlists is not the only way the band taps into new media trends to maximize the reach of their concerts. As the Quartz report notes, “Metallica records each of its live shows and fans can buy the audio files on livemetallica.com, which makes it even more crucial that each show is unique.” The report goes on to explain the “obsessive” extent to which the band varies their sets, a practice which predates the launch of Spotify by half a decade. Notes Quartz,
Each time the band returns to a city, drummer Lars Ulrich analyzes the last decade or so worth of performances in that area. He changes six to eight of the songs in the setlist to give audiences a different experience, Ulrich told radio station 97.9 Baltimore in 2017. He also looks at the songs that are playing on the radio in that area. … Ulrich has been doing that since around 2003, and the band hasn’t repeated a setlist since. Insights from Spotify would certainly help to that end.
The report has yet to be confirmed by the band. The majority of Metallica setlists are preordained with songs the “have to play,” said Ulrich (there’d be some pretty salty fans to contend with if they didn’t play “Enter Sandman”). However, considering the careful thought and research that the band puts into varying their setlists based on past performances in a given market, it’s entirely possible that local Spotify streams factor into those decisions.
So if you’re hitting Metallica’s upcoming fall tour, start streaming that deep cut you’re chasing now. Get your neighbors to do it, too. There’s a chance you can help tip the scales in your favor.