All Known Metal Bands

by Cosmo Lee

McSweeney’s – publishing imprint of Dave Eggers, author of such books as You Shall Know Our Velocity and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – has put out a book called All Known Metal Bands. It is simply that, a list of the names of over 50,000 metal bands. (This reminds me of a young Frank Zappa, who got in trouble in school and had to write a 2000-word essay or face suspension. He turned in a list of the R&B; records he owned, as well as ones he planned to buy. See this black hole of an interview; one of the interviewers is Simpsons creator Matt Groening.)

On one hand, this would surely make great coffee table reading. On the other hand, it is just as surely a copy-and-paste job from metal-archives.com. Essentially, the book is a print version of that website as of sometime last year. The fact that this book has an “author” (a Dan Nelson) is somewhat ludicrous. Does metal-archives.com have a potential intellectual property claim against Nelson/McSweeney’s for theft of its idea, process, and/or content? Regarding the latter, probably not; metal-archives.com doesn’t own the names of the bands it lists. However, it arguably owns the method of organization of these names, even if it’s simply alphabetical. No other site has as complete a list of metal bands, and something feels wrong about a major commercial entity profiting off the backs of an all-volunteer community. In any case, metal-archives.com most certainly lacks the resources to pursue any action against McSweeney’s.

Here is metal-archives.com, constantly facing server problems and asking for donations. Over there is McSweeney’s, who copied the site’s text in probably less than an hour and whipped it into a $22 hardcover ($17 on sale). The least McSweeney’s could do is help defray the IT costs of metal-archives.com.

On a happier note, McSweeney’s magazine The Believer is currently on its music issue. It contains an essay on USBM by my Pitchfork colleague Brandon Stosuy, and a “A Brief Oral History of U.S. Black Metal” (by various US black metallers), excerpted here.