While in Austin last week to promote “Guitar Hero: Metallica,” not to mention the band’s surprise gig, Ulrich described major labels as banks supporting up-and-coming bands and artists.

“Let’s cut to the chase … The primary – not the only but the primary – function of a record label is to act as a bank,” Ulrich told the Los Angeles Times. “When you’re fortunate enough to be successful and so on, you don’t need to rely on record companies as the banks.”

Metallica’s latest release, Death Magnetic, is the band’s last contractually owed album for Warner Music Group. Although the band has not indicated whether it will stay with WMG, sign with another major label or go full-fledge DIY, Ulrich did indicate he was impressed with Trent Reznor and how the Nine Inch Nails frontman marketed the band’s latest CD under a multiple-pricing structure.

“We’re doing a bunch of shows with Trent this summer in Europe,” Ulrich told the Times. “I look forward to sitting down and talking to him about what’s on his radar.”

You gotta admit, that sounds somewhat different than nine years ago when Ulrich said that, other than getting hockey scores, he didn’t have much use for the Internet. At that time Ulrich was condemning the original Napster for facilitating song-sharing, including the trading of Metallica tracks. In retrospect, Ulrich and hisbandmates must have experienced a kind of rude awakening to discover fans who worshipped Metallica never gave a second thought to downloading the band’s entire catalog without paying for it.

But labels and various pricing plans were only a couple of the things on the drummer’s mind last week. Ulrich also had a few things to say about the Live Nation / Ticketmaster merger.

“Certainly, some of the practices that come in the wake of this – like direct reselling and all the stuff that Bruce [Springsteen] was up against in January and some of these other things – obviously are very distasteful, and downright … it’s just ripping people off. It’s impure. So obviously I’d stand up and scream from every rooftop that I think that’s … impure.”

Regarding Springsteen, Ulrich was referring to the onsale for The Boss’ New Jersey shows when fans trying to purchase tickets through Ticketmaster were redirected to the ticker service’s secondary-ticketing site, TicketsNow, where tickets are resold at amounts often several times higher than the original box office price. Springsteen posted on his Web site an essay deploring the practice, as well as the proposed merger. Ticketmaster responded with an open letter of its own apologizing to Springsteen.

Furthermore, according to a settlement reached between Ticketmaster and the state of New Jersey on March 31, more than 1,800 people will have a second crack at purchasing Springsteen tickets when state officials conduct a lottery to determine which fans can purchase tickets for the May 21 and 23 shows at E. Rutherford’s Izod Center.

But back to Lars – this time talking about Metallica’s special brand of Guitar Hero.

“When we got a chance to do this – and hopefully score another couple years of being semi-cool in our kid’s eyes by having our own video game – this is something we jumped at pretty quickly. The bigger questions about brandings and perceptions? I really believe that if we sit here for five years from now or 10 years … it’ll be a fairly standard way of releasing music.”

Click here for the Los Angeles Times article.

For information on the settlement between the state of New Jersey and Ticketmaster, click here.