How Metallica Catered to Diehards With Their ‘Fan Can’ Series
Metallica have always kept their fans well-stocked with limited edition merchandise and pseudo-“bootlegs,” but they truly rewarded their diehard followers with the "Fan Can" series.
Between 1996 and 2010, Metallica offered their Met Club members six limited Fan Can collections including live, rehearsal and interview audiovisual footage along with exclusive merchandise. Each installment was only available to fan club members, and production was limited to several thousand copies — an incredibly small number for a band whose 1991 self-titled album sold over 16 million copies in the United States alone.
Metallica released their first of six Fan Cans in 1996. The collector's set contains a CD of a live rehearsal recorded during the Load sessions, as well as a VHS including a making-of Load documentary and several live cover performances featuring the original artists, such as Anti-Nowhere League’s “So What?” and Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” and “Helpless.” Fan Can I also included an Escape from the Studio ’95 crew shirt and a Metallica bottle opener. It's all aptly packaged inside a metal can featuring Metallica’s “scary guy” logo, drawn by James Hetfield.
Watch Metallica and Diamond Head Live in Birmingham 1992 From 'Fan Can I'
The band quickly followed up its first Fan Can with a second installment in 1997. Fan Can II pays homage to Metallica's Bay Area roots with a live CD recorded the previous year at Slim’s, the hallowed San Francisco rock joint opened by Boz Scaggs in 1988 that shuttered in 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also got a VHS of live footage from 1996 in Aberdeen, Washington, a Lollapalooza 1996 crew shirt, and a Metallica-branded door hanger and luggage tag.
Watch Metallica Live in San Francisco 1996 From 'Fan Can II'
Following the back-to-back releases of 1996's Load and 1997's Reload, Metallica had no shortage of demos, B-sides and other goodies to show fans. Released in November 1998, Fan Can III includes a CD of 12 demos from the Load and Reload sessions and a VHS of a full 1997 concert in Stuttgart, Germany. Once again, the band included a road crew shirt, this one reading “Trails We Have Crept,” and a Metallica rain poncho.
Watch Metallica Live in Germany 1997 From 'Fan Can III'
Metallica took a break from the Fan Cans for a few years, reviving the series in 2001 for its fourth installment. Fans who missed the thrash pioneers' whiplash-inducing early material got a treat with this set, which includes a remastered CD of the band's blistering 1989 concert at Dallas’ Reunion Arena. It also features VHS footage of their historic free concert in the parking lot of Philadelphia's CoreStates Complex on Nov. 11, 1997, which the good citizens and rock DJs of Philly made a reality by outvoting every other city in America to host the hotly contested show. Rounding out Fan Can IV is an ... And Justice for All crew shirt and Metallica dog tag.
Listen to Metallica Live in Dallas 1989 from 'Fan Can IV'
The last two Fan Cans were spaced much further apart, which was likely a reflection of the inner turmoil plaguing Metallica in the 2000s. After a five-year wait, the band released Fan Can V in 2006. The CD compiles performances from a series of free hometown shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco in May 2003. Metallica also updated their video format, including a live DVD culled from several 2002 performances featuring longtime producer Bob Rock on bass and 2003 performances featuring the newly recruited Robert Trujillo. Fans who missed the Fillmore shows could relive them vicariously with a commemorative T-shirt, along with a Metallica carabiner.
Watch Metallica Play Live in California From 'Fan Can V'
Metallica released their sixth and to date final Fan Can in November 2010. The box set eschews a live CD in lieu of a mammoth, two-DVD collection pulled from five consecutive 2009 shows in Copenhagen, Denmark on Metallica’s World Magnetic Tour. As drummer Lars Ulrich noted last year during a "Metallica Monday" streaming party, the band invited 10 Met Club members to film these concerts, which included deep cuts such as “Holier Than Thou,” “Damage, Inc.,” “Trapped Under Ice” and “Stone Cold Crazy.” Fan Can VI also contains rehearsal footage, video interviews with all four members of the band, a Met Club-inspired World Magnetic crew shirt and a keychain featuring Metallica's "Vulturus" illustration.
Watch Metallica Live in Denmark 2009 From 'Fan Can VI'
It's unclear why Metallica stopped releasing Fan Cans (“Remember the Fan Cans?” Ulrich says bemusedly in the above video), but it'll cost you a pretty penny to get your hands on one of the limited-edition curios nowadays. Complete Fan Cans in good condition fetch anywhere from $200 to $600 on eBay. Fear not, though: Most of the footage is available on YouTube if you don't feel like shelling out big bucks for the physical collector's items.
Metallica also began multi-track recording their concerts in 2004, and they've made hundreds of shows available for download on their website. This footage might not be as rare or valuable as the stuff contained in the Fan Cans, but for fans looking to relive the concerts they attended, they can be just as transportive.