09 September 2008
Here’s a tip: Are you “endearingly opinionated”? That means you’ve actually got a big mouth and are in constant, mortal danger of destroying your career and relationships (trust me on this one).
But there’s help! This lesson was driven home to me today when I found out that Metallica had a new album.
Remember Metallica? They’re the band that whined their way into cultural irrelevance. Instead of sitting back and seeing where the “digital revolution” was leading, they reacted immediately and harshly, passing judgment (literally) on those that dared reach into the candy bowl labeled “OMG FREE MUSIC”.
In one PR blunder, one to go into history, they were able to turn their enormous success into a tremendous amount of anti-Metallica fervor. Suddenly, fans and casual observers alike watched in delight as the band started to tear itself apart (on camera!), culminating in the loathsome musical atrocity St. Anger.
Metallica pissed off the entire Internet. There’s no coming back from that, right?
But today, I heard something remarkable: I heard samples from Metallica’s new release, and it didn’t suck. It specifically did not suck.
And you know what? I was glad for them. Glad? I’d assumed there was no end to the well of schadenfreude I had reserved for them. But I found myself glad to see them succeed. I’m not the only one; mark my words, you’ll see a surprising pro-Metallica sentiment arise in the next few weeks.
Rather than chalk that up to our generation’s short attention span, I hope this underscores the forgiving nature of people, even among the digital masses.
More significantly, it underscores the importance of just shutting up and letting a product speak. Where was the massive marketing campaign? The self-indulgent documentary? The angry tirades and lawsuits following its early release?
Whether architected this way or a lucky coincidence, the plan is genius in its execution. By not saying anything, they let community members tell each other about the quality of the album, rather than generating resistance by offering cringe-inducing promises that the band “is sorry” and “has returned to form”. Good show.
The lesson is: not every problem requires a full mea culpa. Often, silently getting your act together is the most effective way to repair a tarnished reputation. Except for your wife. Always, always apologize to her.