Metallica Honored With Polar Music Prize In Sweden

The Polar Music Prize, the prestigious Swedish music award, is handed out to one classical and one contemporary act each year. Metallica is the first metal band to win the prize.

Metallica playing the WiZink Center in Madrid, Spain
WiZink Center
– Metallica playing the WiZink Center in Madrid, Spain
The band brought a new attendance record to the arena.

“Through virtuoso ensemble playing and its use of extremely accelerated tempos, Metallica has taken rock music to places it had never been before,” the award committee selecting the laureates reasoned, adding the band’s countless successes: more than 110 million albums sold worldwide, with Metallica from 1991 becoming the best-selling album since Nielsen’s Soundscan started tracking sales.

The jury also took into account Metallica’s successful touring history, mentioning specifically the “WorldWired” tour, which Pollstar was all over last year. The tour came in fifth on the Year End Top 100 Worldwide Tours chart, grossing $152.8 million and selling an average of 40,143 tickets per city. Taking out the international dates and only focusing on North America, Metallica came in third in 2017 – behind U2 and Bruno Mars – grossing $110.3 million and selling an average of 47,448 tickets.

The band is still on tour, completing the European leg of “WorldWired,” which is going to end with two shows at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, March 9-11. Metallica has been smashing attendance records across Europe’s venues thanks to its unique “WorldWired” stage configuration.

The most recent attendance record was set at the WiZink Center in Madrid, which welcomed 34,034 people to the second of two Metallica concerts at the arena, Feb. 5. An arena rep told Pollstar, “WiZink Center has hosted 360 productions only three times in its history; and two of them were Metallica’s. The main difference between this kind of layout and the others is that the stage is in the center of the floor, so the grid and all the sound comes from the center. We have to make specific calculations, to guarantee that the rigging in that part of the roof is going to be stable and strong enough; and we also have to work very hard for the sound to be able to arrive at each corner of the arena’s bowl. It makes the job twice as hard but, going by the success and the public’s reaction, it’s really worth it.”

Metallica playing the WiZink Center in Madrid, Spain
WiZink Center
– Metallica playing the WiZink Center in Madrid, Spain

As winner of the Polar Music Prize, Metallica receive a trophy and one million Swedish Kronor ($125,000), which the band already announced will go to its All Within My Hands foundation. All four band members commented on the win. Drummer Lars Ulrich said: “Receiving the Polar Music Prize is an incredible thing, it puts us in very distinguished company. It’s a great validation of everything that Metallica has done over the last 35 years. At the same time, we feel like we’re in our prime with a lot of good years ahead of us. Thank you very much.”

By distinguished company, he means artists such as Paul McCartney, who received the first Polar Music Prize ever in 1992, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Paul Simon, Björk, Patti Smith and Sting.

Herring and Herring
– Metallica

Metallica’s singer and guitarist James Hetfield said: “I feel very honored to be in such great company with the others who have accepted the Polar Music Prize. As myself and as Metallica I’m grateful to have this as part of our legacy, our history. Thank you.”

Bassist Robert Trujillo added: “Receiving the Polar Music Prize is such an honor, especially sharing it with artists (previous Laureates) such as Joni Mitchell, Keith Jarrett and Wayne Shorter, who I admire dearly. It’s incredible to be recognized and honored in this way, to me, it’s very prestigious. Hopefully this will inspire younger generations of musicians to keep the music alive.”

Added guitarist Kirk Hammett: “It means a lot to me because we’ve been added to a list of very distinguished artists and musicians who I respect. And to be acknowledged for the work we’ve done. I know how important this is and how much of an honour it is.”

It is obviously not the first prize for Metallica, which has nine Grammys, two American Music Awards and multiple MTV Video Music Awards under its belt. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, and performed a rare concert in Antarctica in 2013, becoming the first act to ever play all seven continents all within a year, and earning themselves a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

This year’s classical Polar Music Prize went to The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and its director Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, who founded the institute in 2010 in Kabul, in response to the civil war’s destruction of Afghanistan’s centuries old and rich musical tradition. Sarmast said he was “very excited, honored and privileged to be a recipient of the 2018 Polar Music Prize alongside The Afghanistan National Institute of Music.”

“We believe that our two recipients, although from very contrasting worlds, exemplify the mission of the Polar Music Prize, and that is to honor musicians and music organizations, whose work has made a difference to people’s lives. Metallica are loved and admired by millions of hard rock fans across the globe. They have led where other bands have followed and their 2017 world tour broke all records. Dr Ahmad Sarmast founded the Afghanistan National Institute of Music to restore the joy and power of music to children’s lives. ANIM’s work with young people and disadvantaged children is truly inspirational,” said Marie Ledin, managing director of the Polar Music Prize.

The awards will be presented June 14, at a gala ceremony at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel by the country’s king Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.