Metallica is one of the big four bands of Thrash Metal. They are a worldwide phenomenon. In the US alone they’ve sold over 50 million albums. Their eponymously titled 1991 album sold over 20 million worldwide.
Their new album, a collaboration with Lou Reed, is out this autumn. I know one person who has heard it (it is under tight embargo) who says it is very good.
At the height of their success in 2001 their bassist Jamie Newsted left the band for “personal reasons”.
He had decided to work on a side project which he wanted to have running in conjunction with Metallica. But band founder James Hetfield was adamantly against his doing so despite the fact that the side project (Echobrain) in no way threatened to compete with Metallica in commercial terms. Hetfield however understood that while Echobrain could not beat Metallica commercially, it could beat them in another way. It could win the war for Newsted’s heart. Newsted could have more creative input into Echobrain, So Echobrain could come to mean more to him that Metallica did. Hetfield said “when someone does a side project it takes away from the strength of Metallica”, and “its like cheating on your wife in a way”.
Unacquainted as I am with the subtleties of Thrash Metal I have lots of sympathy with Hetfield’s point of view. A band, like any brand, like any company, needs a single focus. The heart of the band needs to be sustained by everyone in it, just as every company needs a focus point, a reason to be there.
It is this focus that leads to success. The reason that creative agencies should not do media is that their focus needs to be on the creative department and their creative direction to be successful.
The focus of a media agency is on creating value for brands by investing their budgets well. Not on winning awards for creative excellence.
If you take on a side project – bear in mind it may be where your heart is rather than on your main job. In which case you’re now failing to do that main job properly or perhaps even at all.