What does Metallica and the process of content writing have in common? People usually don’t ask these sorts of questions in fear of being labelled mad. But once you develop a habit of really looking deeper into things, you can find similarities everywhere across seemingly different things. Today I’m going to try finding some lessons from one of the most successful and influential rock bands in history that are relevant to content writing. Sounds both awesome and crazy, right? Bear with me.
Lesson 1: Experiment & Evolve
Ask any Metallica fan and they’ll cite Kill ‘Em All (1983), Master of Puppets (1986) and And Justice for All (1988) to be their greatest albums. With these albums, Metallica quickly grabbed the attention of those listeners who were not that keen to follow mainstream hard rock that was burdened with excessive glitz and glamour at that time. These albums had high velocity, faster percussion, longer guitar solos and unpredictable lyrical take on common themes supported by Hetfield’s barks, shrieks and melodic wails. Not to mention the ‘naïve charm’ of raw and rebellious nature of the music that’s more coming from the streets than from a glammed up studio. But then in 1991, ‘the black album’, Metallica was released.
Metallica (the album) was a risky endeavor, considering it had tried to do away with everything that led the band into limelight. The album had a cleaner sound, less shouting and more singing, slowing down of the accompanying sounds. It was just the right thing to do at that moment when bands like Nirvana (Grunge) and Motorhead (Speed Metal) were trying much faster rhythmic combinations and other bands emulated them extensively. It was an experiment that caused in the alienation of classic fans from their first albums but Metallica successfully sold more than 20 million copies of ‘the black album’ (named so for the predominantly black cover art). Some say the album was carefully sculpted for maximum commercial success and judging from the stats alone, they’re not at all wrong.
As a writer, you should always try experimenting with different ideas which may not be in use yet. The ideas may also threaten your very existence. But with no experimentation of your own, you’re always following someone else’s footsteps and your writing will become just the same with everyone else’s. You need to stand out in your content writing projects. This can only be done when you’re willing to take risks like Metallica did. But you need to constantly keep looking at audience demands while doing so, and that takes us to the next lesson.
Lesson 2: Follow the Demand With Eyes Wide Open
There’s a nice little backstory to the release of ‘the black album’. In 1989, Metallica released ‘One’, their first music video which instantly brought them recognition and awards. The final four minutes of this 7 minutes 44 seconds video was pure animalistic threat to the ears. It was depressing yet uplifting, creepy yet genius, a raw journey of heavy emotions from “deep down inside I feel the scream” to “left me with life in hell”, all stringed together in beautiful melodic interludes. It was a masterpiece.
The huge success of ‘One’ could have meant only one thing to do next. That was to follow up with another music video, with the same thematic structure to it. Metallica listened to their audience but not blindly. They quickly figured out that those melodic interludes are the things that were keeping the song together and decided to release ‘Metallica’ instead. They went with their instincts and made an album that had not one, not two but FIVE songs (“Enter Sandman”, “Sad But True”, “Nothing Else Matters”, “Wherever I May Roam” and “The Unforgiven”) in the Billboard Hot 100.
As in content writing, we often focus on what should be done and what should be followed, in the strictest manner possible. These guidelines have no doubt come from analyzing the audience demands but do you keep your eyes wide open? There may be little openings which you can open some more to let more light through. By following your audience with eyes wide open, you can brand yourself better as a content writer. And that also brings us to the next lesson from Metallica.
Lesson 3: Own Your Brand
What Metallica did since they first started playing in 1981 is to follow their deep intent to “stay real”. It was much easier for them to follow the glam rock way to success then. Yet they proudly wore their rebel attitudes and followed their passion for metal. Slowly they gave themselves a story that they could use, again and again, and created a whole new brand around that story.
They didn’t stop at just creating their brand story though. Through the Met Club, they started to invite their fans to be the “Fifth Member of Metallica”. The Met Club offers exclusive content such as photos, videos and interviews, exclusive merchandise such as tee shirts and collectibles, exclusive contests that can grant a special entry to a gig or a chance to meet with the band members and even some free content once you register at the site. By staying close to their hardcore fans and really listening to their demands, they still continue to dazzle us even today.
When it comes to content writing, you can also give yourself a story to be recognized as your exclusive brand story. Can you guess what’s the story behind ScribbleSquare? I have a very distinct goal to make this blog lovable by everyone with a passion for active learning, whether they possess immense knowledge about content writing or digital marketing in general or not. I repeatedly repeat that content marketing shouldn’t be hard at all. Through ScribbleSquare and other content writing gigs that I do, I always aim to simplify matters for almost anyone willing to learn. You can brand your writing in a way that most suits your style and approach to your subject.
And then be ready to engage with your readers. Writing can be a very solo journey yet with the possibility of meeting many new readers with very promising and valuable ideas of their own. By actively listening to what your readers are saying, you can hone your writing skills to suit them. This will not result in you losing your style, but will strengthen the bond between you and your readers.
Lesson 4: Consistency Is Key
Time to step back from and really reflect on the first and second lessons now. It’s true that Metallica (1991) did sell more than 20 million copies, with Load (1996) and Reload (1997) following the example of broadening the fan base. But it was also true that Metallica was losing their core fans over these years. The final turnaround point came with the release and controversial reception of their album, St. Anger (2003). They really needed to revamp their music once more.
Before I tell you what happened next, let’s look at what was going wrong for them. Only thing going wrong was that their brand image that they had built up from 1981 to 1990 was not consistent with the music produced from 1991 to 2003. It resulted in, as stated above, the slow alienation of hardcore Metallica fans while also gaining them a much larger audience. But that model of more reach was not working anymore. They really needed to get back to their roots, find once more the reason they started playing in the first place.
With the help of Visual Design & Branding Expert, Turner Duckworth, Metallica adopted their early style with the promotion of their 2008 album, Death Magnetic. They used their classic logo after nearly twenty years or so. That instantly sent a message to their followers: Metallica is coming back with a highly satisfying bang of the old thrash metal. What happened next? Death Magnetic helped Metallica once again to grab the #1 spot on US Billboard 200 and nine other charts of significance (Billboard Comprehensive, Top Rock, Top Hard Rock, Top Modern Rock, Top Alternative Rock, Top Digital Albums, Top Internet Albums, Top European Albums and Tastemakers), eventually bagging Kerrang! Award for Best Album and Grammy for Best Recording Package in 2009.
This teaches us a lot about being consistent in our content plan. Sometimes in the illusion of gaining more traffic and audience reach, we may lose track of our initial goals and follow someone else’s footprints in order to do something else entirely. It’ll always be better to know what your expectations are from your writing, to work towards achieving that regardless of the speed of producing content, to be consistent with what you started out to do. In this case, be cautioned with the Metallica approach and don’t fall for something which is not aligned with your content writing goals.
Just to hit the point home, consistency is key when you’re producing content for a living because not doing so will result in alienation of your loyal readers and it’s so very hard to win them back these days, with so many competition from all around.
Content writing is similar to every other artistic process there is. We can learn from the greatest painters, greatest music creators and the greatest movie directors too. In this post, I tried to explain exactly why and how the example of Metallica, undoubtedly one of the most influential rock bands in history, can teach us about the dos and don’ts of the process of content writing itself. Being an avid music lover myself, writing this post has been one of my most enjoyable experiences. Do you think the lessons I talked about are relevant? I’ll always be eager to know what you think about them.
Let’s have a happy week ahead. Keep spreading love by creating more content, this time with these 4 content writing lessons from Metallica in mind.